As the leader of the War on Drugs, Adam Granduciel plays two opposing roles. On one hand, he’s a singer-songwriter in the tradition of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, painting imagistic portraits of pain, loss, and the moments in between. At the same time, he meticulously arranges his songs more like an electronic producer, building towards a transportive and emotionally overwhelming effect.
“Living Proof,” the first single from the band’s upcoming album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, brings new context to both roles. As a frontman, Granduciel has never sounded more vulnerable or direct, his voice clear in the mix over gently strummed acoustic guitar. “They’re building up my block,” he sings. “Maybe I’ve been gone too long.” Gone is the hypnotic blur of his previous work—he is now singing about a real place, a specific moment. To accompany this clarity, he cuts the distractions, leaning on the autumnal slow burn of his band, a quality that has often felt like the calm before the storm.
But at precisely the moment when a previous War on Drugs song might firework across the wide-open horizon, “Living Proof” recedes into itself. The identifiable sound of his bandmates—bassist Dave Hartley, drummer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony LaMarca, pianist Robbie Bennett, Jon Natchez on synth, and Michael Bloch on mellotron—feels newly hushed and fragile, restrained but heavenly. Following their lead, Granduciel closes the song by stepping proudly into his third, and perhaps most comfortable, role: a dazzling electric guitarist, landing on a solo that stretches out tentatively, as if surveying the landscape before settling down and becoming part of it, again.