Lost in the Dream is aptly named, since it unfolds with all of the haze of a pleasant dream and manages to capture that euphoria of waking up on a weekend and not having to go anywhere or do anything. It’s pretty similar to another album I reviewed last year called Wakin on a Pretty Daze by Kurt Vile, who, not coincidentally, was a founding member of the War on Drugs and left after the release of their first album (2008’s Wagonwheel Blues) to launch his own solo career. Wakin on a Pretty Daze turned out to be one of my favorite albums of 2013, as well as one of the most acclaimed. Lost in the Dream received even more acclaim, but I prefer Vile‘s hazy record to the War on Drugs‘ — Vile is a sharper songwriter than the War on Drugs‘ Adam Granduciel.
I still like Lost in the Dream quite a bit, however. The opening track, “Under the Pressure,” is a knockout, and is easily my favorite song of 2014. The rest of the album is more of a grower, but with repeat listens its form becomes a lot more clear. While it’s not quite accurate to say the band abandons typical song structures, there are some extended, Pink Floyd-ish intros, outros, and transitions — the Wish You Were Here classic “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” particularly comes to mind — in places. These atmospherics are blended expertly with heartland rock-leaning sensibilities, such as on the undeniably Springsteen-influenced “Burning,” which pays tribute to the Born in the U.S.A. sound without actually sounding like an ’80s song. This is largely what makes the album so effective: it properly synthesizes its influences into something that feels new.
Contemporary rock albums rarely have this kind of vision, fluidity, and musicianship. And unlike a really good dream, you can go back and experience Lost in the Dream as many times as you want. Highly recommended.