On Lost in the Dream, the War on Drugs’ breakout album, frontman Adam Granduciel played with an interesting marriage between the trippy, synth-drenched gauziness favored by so many indie artists and the ‘80s heartland rock that those artists’ dads probably love more than they do. His impressionistic reimagining of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Don Henley’s heyday was infamously dubbed “beer commercial lead-guitar shit” by Sun Kil Moon’s ornery Mark Kozelek, but for all of us without sticks up our asses, Lost in the Dream was an intriguing reincarnation of a bygone sound.
With just over three years elapsing since their last release, the War on Drugs are finally back with a new track. “Thinking of a Place” is an eleven-minute epic that’s being released as a 12” single tomorrow for Record Store Day, and a day ahead of that, it’s been made available for streaming.
Fans of Lost in the Dream won’t be met with many bells and whistles that didn’t appear on that album, as “Thinking of a Place” doesn’t deviate from that wildly successful formula, save for its extended runtime. We still get sublime slide guitars and hazy washes of synth, instantly hearkening to wide open spaces and nostalgia, but there’s more room for soloing, as Granduciel gives us one each on guitar and harmonica, as well as an additional ambient passage on synth.
It’s still unclear whether this track will appear on a future War on Drugs album, and we’re also unsure if this, like most of Lost in the Dream, is a product of Granduciel recording by himself. Whatever the case, it’s still very in-line with that previous album’s melancholy tone, but with a hint of optimism peaking through this time: “There’s a rhythm in the way that we’ve been moving/Yeah, there’s a darkness over there, but we ain’t going.”
With “Thinking of a Place,” the War on Drugs proves they can ride this vintage sound all the way into the sunset.