Of course a band called The War on Drugs is going to sound psychedelic. It's just a shame that the days when Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel and 21st-century guitar hero Kurt Vile collaborated consistently are over. Back in 2003, when Granduciel relocated from California to Philadelphia, he hooked up with Vile and began fighting the good fight. In 2008, Vile left the group to tend to his burgeoning solo career; the non-singer portion of Drugs has been completely overhauled since that time, with only occasional assistance from Vile. But with Granduciel still at the wheel, the War rages on, and the band's new Slave Ambient might just be this year's shot to be felt round the world.
What makes The War on Drugs' version of psychedelia so potent is its focus. Sure, Granduciel and friends like to meander like lava lamp bubbles, but it's in the framework of tracks that are rhythmically locked, keeping the band from wandering too far from its appointed destination. Granduciel's vocals come framed in a similar fashion; his nasal singing style might recall Bob Dylan, but his mobile blues are much more concise. When he really has something to say, he goes to his guitar, and Granduciel's eloquence with that instrument, especially this time around, is just about peerless. Carter Tanton, formerly of the band TULSA, opens, pulling from a nifty new solo record called Freeclouds. —David Raposa