50 Years of Music: 2014 – The War on Drugs - "Eyes to the Wind"

Roddy Nikpour

2022 is almost over, which means there are just a few weeks left for us to celebrate KEXP’s 50th anniversary. Each week, we’re picking a year from the last half-century to remember that moment in music. This week, we’re celebrating the year 2014. KEXP’s Roddy Nikpour tells us how the The War on Drugs album “Lost in the Dream” helped him bond with a mentor in college.

Adam Granduciel was already making music as The War on Drugs several years before he released “Lost in the Dream.” He even worked with Kurt Vile on their first album, “Wagonwheel Blues.” And it’s not just because they look alike, i.e. short guitar players with round faces and wavy brown hair. They both lean into Americana; you can practically hear Bob Dylan singing in their early stuff. 
Kurt Vile left the band on good terms to focus on his solo career. Still, Granduciel kept the music rolling and recorded the second album, “Slave Ambient.” Now we’re starting to become a bit more electronic.
By 2014, The War on Drugs perfected their signature sound. At the intersection of acoustic folk and electric reverb, they gave us “Lost in the Dream.” 
The album fits so many occasions in life. For example, it’s a road-tripping album. Hitting the highway when “Under the Pressure” kicks on? Hell yeah. 
It’s also a sit-in-silence-and-contemplate-your-life album. The lyrics in “Eyes to the Wind” capture the emotional struggle of embracing the unknown. It’s a song I still rely on to guide me through transitional phases in life. 
It’s also an album that led me to spontaneously see a live show with my Latin research professor. 
Yes, blast your “nerd alert” as loudly as possible: I was a research assistant proofreading Medieval Latin manuscripts. I was specifically proofreading a comprehensive work about the seven deadly sins. (You know the ones — pride, lust, gluttony, etc. Medieval monks only had so much variety in their media diet, so this Latin manuscript was full of sinning.) 
The project was led by Professor Richard Newhauser. Even though he’s a few decades older than me, he isn’t much taller than me. He always tucks in his button-up shirts. He wears a nice, tightly trimmed beard offset by his curly grey locks. 
A few times a week, I rode my bike to Professor Newhauser’s house and we’d sit there for about four hours a time reading out loud in Latin, such as: “Quod vitia summa diligentia sint vitanda tribus rationibus ostenditur,” etc. I mean, who doesn’t want to understand “the three proofs by which the seven deadly sins must be avoided with the greatest diligence”? 
About halfway through each session, Professor Newhauser and I would use nonverbal cues to basically say: “My eyes are glazing over from staring at this document, let’s please take a break.” We’d head into his kitchen and, in a predictable and mechanical fashion, he’d cut up an apple. None of this apple was explicitly meant for me, but he’d usually spare me a slice. He’d also give the core to his old beagle, Otto. From there, the three of us would just stand in his backyard in utter silence sprinkled with small talk, kind of like King of the Hill
One of those times in the backyard, Professor Newhauser had asked what I was doing the following week, so I told him I was going to see The War on Drugs on their “Still Lost in the Dream” tour. To my surprise, he lit up. Next thing you know, I gave him my spare ticket and we carpooled to the show together. 
During the performance, it was just like we were in his backyard — not really talking or even acknowledging each other. But I knew we were both cherishing this experience together. I looked over to him during “An Ocean Between the Waves,” and Professor Newhauser was bobbing up and down the way that older people do when they want to cut a rug without slipping a disk. It was one of the cutest things I had ever seen. (To be fair, I was rocking out in my own awkward way, too.) 
I was so glad to give back to him in some small way — not just for the apple slices, but for the research opportunity as a whole. Even though I’m not a famous Latin researcher, I owe him a lot for letting me experience a bit of that life with him. 
The next day when we resumed our research, Professor Newhauser thanked me again for the tickets, and, like clockwork, we continued reading our Latin text. “Post peccatum auaricie dicendum est de peccato accidie.” 
It’s hard to read about the sin of sloth when your feet are still bouncing from an incredible live show. The War on Drugs strikes that perfect balance between “Oh hey, I recognize this song from the album!” and adding flair that makes the live performance hard to forget. 
You could say I was (and often still am) lost in “Lost in the Dream.” Give it another thousand years, and sure enough, you’ll have a professor and his apprentice toiling over the lyrics in this album: “When we're living in the moment / And losing our grasp / Making it last with the grand parade in our past.” 
Definitely beats the seven deadly sins — no offense, Professor Newhauser.

Otto in the backyard


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