Listen to the track below
Across three albums, The War on Drugs have become increasingly adept at reflecting the sound of classic rock through a fog, with songs that grow and fade like living memories. But on their new single, “Holding On,” the band sounds like they’re ready to start over. “When we talk about the past, what are we talking of?” singer Adam Granduciel asks, and the music attempts to answer. There’s a newfound sense of clarity here, from the magnificent production to the ornate instrumentation: They’re not just hinting at influences like Springsteen anymore, but downright summoning them—borrowing the glockenspiels from Born to Run and the stadium synths from Born in the U.S.A.
While “Thinking of a Place”—our first taste from the band’s upcoming album, A Deeper Understanding—spent its 11-plus minutes patiently building toward a zen denouement, “Holding On” is decidedly action-packed. Buoyed by Meg Duffy’s winding slide guitar and a bouncing synth line, it shifts from hook to hook—dazzling with its intricacy or washing over you with its smoothness, depending on how closely you’re listening. It ends with a glimmering descending melody and pitch-shifted vocal motif, maybe the first moment in a War on Drugs song that could be described as “whimsical.” It still sounds like the past, but it feels like moving on.