A Deeper Understanding

The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding
Critic Score
Based on 44 reviews
2017 Ratings: #325 / 898
Year End Rank: #8
User Score
Based on 699 ratings
2017 Ratings: #66
Liked by 19 people
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A.V. Club

Understanding’s songs are so towering and dense they threaten to topple over into soupy monotony, but what’s most impressive about these 10 tracks is the way frontman Adam Granduciel and his bandmates prop them up with an endless supply of electrifying, ear-catching details.

Pretty Much Amazing

A Deeper Understanding is the best indie rock record of the year and in many ways, the best record in general. It is comforting and compelling in its confidence.

Tiny Mix Tapes
This record is a shimmering case study of the iron grip that melancholy has on the heavy soul that wants desperately to accept love. Beyond their meteoric guitar solos, exploding-heart drums, and silvery synths, The War on Drugs always lead us back to that familiar moment that we all know: the paralyzing convergence of passion and anxiety.
The 405

It is this expert production that Adam Granduciel has managed to cultivate throughout A Deeper Understanding that takes it above just another rock album and beyond just another album full of hope and nostalgia.


The obsessive studio work of Adam Granduciel creates a hermetic experience like no other. A Deeper Understanding is his most layered and meticulous album, a twilight world in which to lose yourself.

The Line of Best Fit

A Deeper Understanding doesn’t seem to arrive at any conclusions or answers to the questions of self and suffering that Lost in the Dream addressed, since they are inherently unanswerable. For The War On Drugs though, the importance has always lied in the journey, and this powerful record proves that the band has no signs of stopping along the way.


A Deeper Understanding is an epic, panoramic record, but its effect is an intimate, personal one.

‘A Deeper Understanding’ is a sprawling, expansive rock record that further cements TWOD’s place as one of today’s best artists of the genre.

When the songs are this satisfying, when each guitar solo tears through cynicism like a wet paper bag, sometimes good old fashioned honesty is more than fine. It’s downright beautiful.

Consequence of Sound

Throughout A Deeper Understanding, The War On Drugs develop their strengths, taking what they do best and airing it out. A master class in widening scope, the record finds the band unafraid to push their sound in a way that feels bigger than what any of their contemporaries are doing.


A Deeper Understanding represents another step forward for the War on Drugs, and is among their most ambitious, consistent, and emotionally searing works yet.

Under The Radar

A Deeper Understanding suffers a bit just in that The War on Drugs are no longer new on the scene—the album is more a distillation of the formula they toyed with on previous albums. It's not as new anymore, but it sure sounds great.


It’s The War On Drugs doing what they always do so well, only on a more dramatic scale than ever before. There’s nothing quite as urgent and propulsive as Lost In The Dream’s Under Pressure or Red Eyes here, but arguably there is even greater depth in terms of texture.


Though there's nothing here to grab headlines, A Deeper Understanding reclaims and explores the distinctive soundscapes, vastness, and haunted psyche of Lost in the Dream, and that in itself is significant.

The Guardian

A record that banishes any listener cynicism on first contact; a wide-eyed look into the wild blue yonder.

Rolling Stone

Leader Adam Granduciel achieves full-on sonic rapture with his band's latest LP, an abstract-expressionist mural of synth-pop and heartland rock colored by bruised optimism and some of his most generous, incandescent guitar ever.


These songs revel in their spaciousness, like three- minute drivetime anthems from 1986 set free from their radio edits to muck around with 2017’s oddest noises for seven minutes at a time.

The result is some of the richest, most compelling and least lonely-sounding music of Granduciel’s career.
The Observer

What could have been overcooked is the most vivid War on Drugs album, a shimmering chrome dream caught between heartland and the heavens.


There are clear dynamic voids, tension shifts forgotten, something hollow or maybe alien about the patent, polished delivery of the band’s production and performances that, when not enjoyed in the live setting, seems destined to be relegated to the mire of music to listen to while doing other shit.

Northern Transmissions
While the songs are long, they offer a lot of rich sonic art that will be hard to find in such a beautiful combination outside of the record. This all said, the length works against the tracks more often than it helps them making for a record that is tiring to focus on.
Drowned in Sound

Produced differently, A Deeper Understanding could be really startling stuff; as it is, it feels like The War on Drugs have made an agreeable, fan-pleasing album to escape into and hide in, not to a record to take on the world.


This time around ... all of the sonic elements have snapped into focus: the drums are booming, the guitar leads are vivid, and even the washes of synths are bright rather than bleary.

Slant Magazine

The unrelenting motif of these dark nights of the soul and long, winding roads—as well as the contrast of yearning for the light—grows tiresome, blunting the impact of the War on Drugs's finely tuned music.

The Skinny

While stylistically The War on Drugs have never released anything revolutionary, A Deeper Understanding lacks that spark that their previous releases had, which could well be due in part to their move to a new major label home.


This is The War On Drugs formula, and you can't say that songs like 'In Chains' or 'Pain' aren't beautiful, but for any fans looking for progression, you'll be searching for a while.

The Independent

It’s all too controlled and unambitious; and just aping Dylan’s wheeze doesn’t make it any more intriguing.

It might lack it’s ‘Red Eyes’ but this record is filled with enough to satisfy any existing fans.
Crack Magazine

Ultimately, A Deeper Understanding sounds like you expect it to – the band who made Lost in the Dream trying to do it all over again, but this time they’re sounding more placid, and a touch sunnier.

No Ripcord

What you see is pretty much what you get with A Deeper Understanding: impeccably-produced songs about aging and disillusionment imbued with an air of nostalgia.

Loud and Quiet

The biggest problem with ‘A Deeper Understanding’ isn’t how over-long it is – it’s the sheer inevitability of it all.

The Needle Drop

A Deeper Understanding is big on sound, but small on substance.

This record has something really really special going on track by track. The production is out of this world and all the vocals seems to be precisely studied to be perfect here. An album that everyone should listen to at a certain point of its life.

FAVORITE TRACK: Strangest Thing (by far)
imagine the course of ‘a deeper understanding’ goes: in 2017, that tom petty (rip) magically returned to cover a chromatic’s song, and, as he is dying, gradually passes the mic to bob dylan. that’s the course of this album
This gonna be AOTY i can feel it

Edit: Hey, I may be in the minority here but idc I love this album. Unless you dislike TWOD's style I don't see why you wouldn't enjoy this album.
Exquisite from start to finish. I don't understand why anyone would complain about such a beautiful album being long. I don't ever want it to end.
tastes like the childhood I never had, yet I feel nostalgic about it.
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Added on: June 1, 2017