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The War On Drugs Find a New Spingsteen High on “Holding On”

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 26: Adam Granduciel from The War on Drugs performs at the 2015 Landmark Music Festival at West Potomac Park on September 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)

Three years after 2014’s standout Lost in the Dream, Philadelphia favorites The War On Drugs are looking for new terrain. Spinning classic riffs into a melancholic haze of classic radio rock, the band has long locked-in on a lush, synth-drenched formula spanning their trio of past releases on the indie label Secretly Canadian. But after signing to a major and unveiling their dreamy and crystalline new single “Thinking of a Place,”  the band seems set on something bigger this time.

The second track from their forthcoming album A Deeper Understanding, “Holding On” stretches the band’s meditative formula into crisp, streamlined hi-fi. The 6-minute track starts with a splash of stoned synths, quickly teasing in slide guitar and glockenspiel cut straight from Born to Run or Tunnel of Love. Adam Granduciel voice has the haunting low-end grovel, which slaps against the staccato bassline with a bright, up-beat bounce. As the chorus hits, the track ascends to a soaring, anthemic spiral with voice and guitar overlapping in a messy, monophonic ecstasy.

What once began as a bit of a simple “Springsteen plus reverb” punchline, the band has now expanded the palette into something transformative and newly striking. Years after 2011’s Slave Ambient betrayed its namesake with a liberating hypnogogia, “Holding On” lets go of the past with an elegy of mutating soundscapes.  But as it slowly drops back into its last wisps of spectral echo, the track pangs with something familiar, the future taking shape through reflective introspection.