I REALLY enjoy the concept and mental challenge of trying to pin down one album I would like to have with me on a desert island. I’ve thought considerably about the criteria that would make an ideal album for that setting. Perhaps, my favourite album of all time ‘The Stone Roses?’ Or, maybe the most influential album on my song writing of all time? That’s still a question I cannot answer.

I have always been a person who enjoys listening to music in a way that allows me to better extrapolate my surroundings and the topography around me; while at the same allowing those dynamics to engage together in a way that can manifest themselves in some type of guiding force leading to a life change.

For me, a desert island album must be an album that gives enough space to allow the listener to absorb every grain of sand. It also has to sow the seeds to new life ideas to move oneself forward in a positive manner. It must feature complex emotional swings through tempo, dynamics, and cadence. It doesn’t necessarily need to resolve, but needs to have enough imagery to foster identity, critical thought, and interpretation. To get there, there are three pillars. The album should allow the listener to first reflect and decompress. It should then allow for evaluation and synthesis. Finally, the album should stay with the listener allowing for it to be applied and catalysed into new thoughts.

So, there it is. I had to find an album that encapsulates all the links in the chain, so to speak. The album I am going to talk about is the 2014 masterpiece by a band called The War on Drugs and the album is titled ‘Lost in The Dream.’

The album was produced in a way that makes it feel spherical, almost as if it is a fastened body of each of the ideas above. Yet, it still retains its opacity, leaving room for the listener to explore its atmosphere and draw their own deductions. Its roots stretch far beyond musical ones, exploring an ever-reaching universe containing lyrical and sonic themes of loss, recuperation, rebirth, struggle, navigating change, and a multitude of others.

Some of the footbridges that connect these ideas are sweeping arpeggios, cascading guitar leads, ethereal synths and understated instrumentation throughout. You can hear these begin with the pounding opening track ‘Under the Pressure’ and again as the album melts into the delicate, slow burner, ‘Suffering.’

The album again picks up the pace with the 7-minute ’80s homage ‘An Ocean Between The Waves,’ which features a nearly three-minute guitar solo where every single note means something. We could spend days unpacking the title of this song but to me, the title speaks to the process of change and all the muddiness and uncertainty one experiences when going from emotional swings of high to low and vice versa.

This album builds atmosphere and mood unlike any other. It is laced with tinges of rock stalwarts like Springsteen, Dire Straits, Tom Petty, and Neil Young.

Adam Granduciel and The War on Drugs have created a 10-track album that is transformative. Nothing about this album feels repetitive, recycled, or stale. ‘Eyes to The Wind’ envelopes the entity of struggle, creating an atmospheric outer shell that leaves the listener with a warm blanket that consists of a two plus minute outro guiding them out of the darkness. Patience, contemplation, and vacillation are perpendicular themes layered throughout ‘A Haunting Idle.’

The final track, ‘In Reverse,’ is my personal favourite from the album. It is the perfect concluding symphony of emotional release. I relied heavily on this song in dealing with my mother’s passing this past summer. I spent a lot of time in reverse and frankly, needed to stand inside and face my fear, guilt, and trepidation. This album was a key cog in me being able to compartmentalize loss and catalyse those emotions that were trying to rip me away from reality into cognitive distortions.

It helped me turn them into productive, creative tenants of the next voyage. I needed to get back to that feeling of starting over, feeding that insatiable need for excitement after the ship has left the docks. That’s what this song is to me — the ending of a film reel that the listener can continue to unpack and take with them as they walk into a cascading sunset.

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