August 26, 2014

Lost in the Dream

A couple weeks off work gave me the chance to visit my family in Manitoba and see some old, estranged friends. Returning home often leaves me with mixed emotions. There's something mysterious about reassuming the roles and rituals that once seemed to provide structure; at the same time, such familiarity can make the distance between past and presence that much sharper. Sometimes music helps to dull what that awkward pain, that feeling of being disjointed. As is often the case with art, one kind of ambiguity is displaced by another.

On more than one occasion I was asked what I've been listening to lately. In each case, it felt right to mention the new album from The War On Drugs, Lost in the Dream, an album that seemed to evoke the weird feelings I was having in my old surroundings. It's an album that sounds hauntingly familiar, especially for kids who grew up in the late 80s and unwittingly absorbed the better part of their parents' record collections. The nostalgia is impossible to avoid and there's no need to apologize for it. It's inevitable.

The songs on Lost in the Dream stretch out like highways. And for an album this confident in its nostalgia, an album so far removed from the sounds of its contemporaries, you might expect these highways to lead home, to some sentimental destination. But the drive takes over and you realize that, despite all the classic rock tropes, the well-worn themes, and all that sweet emotion, you've arrived somewhere you didn't expect to be.

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