Slave Ambient

Slave Ambient is the second studio album by American indie rock band The War on Drugs, released on August 16, 2011, on Secretly Canadian. Recorded over three years, Slave Ambient is the final release to feature contributions from founding guitarist Kurt Vile and drummer Mike Zanghi, and the first to feature drummer Steven Urgo.[5][6]

Slave Ambient
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 16, 2011
LabelSecretly Canadian
The War on Drugs chronology
Future Weather
Slave Ambient
Lost in the Dream
Singles from Slave Ambient
  1. "Baby Missiles"
    Released: September 12, 2011
  2. "Come to the City"
    Released: December 5, 2011
  3. "Best Night"
    Released: March 12, 2012

The album was preceded by the EP, Future Weather, in 2010.

Background and recordingEdit

Regarding his recording contributions to Slave Ambient former guitarist Kurt Vile stated, "I was stoked to play on those songs ["Best Night" and "It's Your Destiny"], but I was more involved in the early days. Obviously the first record I was very involved in."[7]


Slave Ambient's artwork features photography by founding member Adam Granduciel. Its cover photograph was taken in Zaragoza, Spain, in July 2009, whilst on tour with the band, while its interior photographs were taken when on tour as a member of Kurt Vile & the Violators in October 2009, in Livingston, Montana.


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic     [10]
The A.V. ClubA−[11]
The Guardian     [12]
The Irish Times     [13]
Mojo     [14]
The Observer     [16]
Uncut     [19]

Upon release, Slave Ambient received positive reviews from music critics.[9] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average of 82, based on 31 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim".[9]

Stuart Berman of Pitchfork gave the album a positive review, writing "The really amazing thing about the album is how anthemic and affirming it feels despite the near total absence of proper sing-along choruses." The album also received a "Best New Music" designation from the site.[17] The A.V. Club's Steven Hyden also gave the album a positive review, writing "With Adam Granduciel’s Dylan-esque drawl and a small orchestra of shimmering, vaguely noodly guitars as the group’s sonic trademarks, The War On Drugs is an unabashed trad-rock outfit. But Slave Ambient doesn’t recall the past so much as a bright, unexpected future, where bands like this inexplicably are still dreaming in new, refreshingly outsized ways."[11] BBC's Lou Thomas called the songs on the album "memorable," concluding his review with "Slave Ambient as a whole may be more confused than your average reality show star at a Mensa meeting, but it’s full of decent songs with a lot of heart."[20]

In a more mixed review, Slant Magazine's Matthew Cole wrote "Too often, ambient passages like 'The Animator' and 'City Reprise' sound too obviously like interludes intended to fill space between real songs, rather than finished compositions in their own right." However, Cole concluded his review with: "...War on Drugs is a well-studied rock crew with an honest experimental streak, unfazed by the fact that relatively few of their potential fans will count Nebraska and Daydream Nation among their favorite records. But with a little more time to perfect their style, the War on Drugs would be well-positioned to win converts for both camps, and also their own."[21] In another mixed review, Now's Richard Trapunski wrote: "It’s easy to get lost in the pleasant, euphoric drone, but at 47 minutes the album is more of a marathon than a sprint."[22] Spin gave the album a score of 7/10, writing, "Main man Adam Granduciel gets plenty of Dylan comparisons, but Slave Ambient feels like a more back-alley Byrds filtered through a gauzier Spacemen 3 lens."[18]


Slave Ambient has appeared on several end-of-year lists. Paste ranked the album #37 on its list of the best 50 albums of 2011, writing "Even with the departure of Kurt Vile [...] their post-Vile songs have kept them steady, and, as proven by the almost defiantly solid Slave Ambient, they can be memorable and engaging all by themselves."[23] Uncut placed Slave Ambient at number 10 on its list, while Mojo ranked the album #21 on its end-of-year list.[24][25] Pitchfork ranked the album #39 on its list of the Top 50 Albums of 2011.[26]

Track listingEdit

All songs written by Adam Granduciel, except where noted.

1."Best Night" 5:30
2."Brothers"Adam Granduciel, Dave Hartley, Mike Zanghi, Robbie Bennett4:29
3."I Was There" 3:49
4."Your Love Is Calling My Name" 6:01
5."The Animator" 2:16
6."Come to the City"Adam Granduciel, Dave Hartley4:31
7."Come for It" 0:28
8."It's Your Destiny"Adam Granduciel, Robbie Bennett4:49
9."City Reprise #12" 3:05
10."Baby Missiles" 3:33
11."Original Slave" 3:11
12."Black Water Falls" 5:10
Total length:46:52


The following people contributed to Slave Ambient:[27]


Chart (2011) Peak
US Independent Albums (Billboard)[28] 27
US Heatseekers Albums (Billboard)[29] 4


  1. ^ "The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient". Secretly Canadian. Archived from the original on March 15, 2015. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  2. ^ Smith, Stewart. The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient. 10 August 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  3. ^ Larson, Jeremy (August 30, 2011). "The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
  4. ^ Branson, Scott (August 19, 2011). "The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient". PopMatters. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
  5. ^ Franco, Michael (November 21, 2011). "Persevering Through the Confusion: An Interview with The War on Drugs". PopMatters. Retrieved December 8, 2011.
  6. ^ "Musical Pairings: The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient". Turntable Kitchen. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  7. ^ Young, Susannah (December 14, 2009). "Kurt Vile: Interview At Pitchfork Music Festival 2011". Prefix Magazine. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  8. ^ "Slave Ambient by The War On Drugs reviews". AnyDecentMusic?. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c "Reviews for Slave Ambient by The War on Drugs". Metacritic. Retrieved August 28, 2011.
  10. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Slave Ambient – The War on Drugs". AllMusic. Retrieved August 28, 2011.
  11. ^ a b Hyden, Steven (August 16, 2011). "The War On Drugs: Slave Ambient". The A.V. Club. Retrieved August 28, 2011.
  12. ^ Hann, Michael (December 22, 2011). "The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient – review". The Guardian. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  13. ^ Carroll, Jim (August 26, 2011). "The War on Drugs". The Irish Times. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  14. ^ "The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient". Mojo (214): 94. September 2011.
  15. ^ Wright, Lisa (August 9, 2011). "Album Review: The War On Drugs – 'Slave Ambient'". NME. Archived from the original on March 2, 2016. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  16. ^ Empire, Kitty (August 14, 2011). "The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient – review". The Observer. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  17. ^ a b Berman, Stuart (August 23, 2011). "The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  18. ^ a b Modell, Josh (August 16, 2011). "The War on Drugs, 'Slave Ambient' (Secretly Canadian)". Spin. Archived from the original on August 10, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  19. ^ "The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient". Uncut (172): 80. September 2011.
  20. ^ Thomes, Lou (August 12, 2011). "Review of The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient". BBC Music. Retrieved August 28, 2011.
  21. ^ Cole, Matthew (August 14, 2011). "The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient". Slant Magazine. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  22. ^ Trapunski, Richard (August 11–18, 2011). "The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient". Now. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  23. ^ Jackson, Josh (November 29, 2011). "The 50 Best Albums of 2011". Paste. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  24. ^ Uncut's Top 50 Albums Of 2011. Stereogum. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  25. ^ MOJO's Top 50 Albums Of 2011. Stereogum. 2 December 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  26. ^ The Top 50 Albums of 2011. Pitchfork. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
  27. ^ "Slave Ambient – The War on Drugs (Credits)". AllMusic. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  28. ^ "The War on Drugs Chart History (Independent Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
  29. ^ "The War on Drugs Chart History (Heatseekers Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved September 5, 2011.

External linksEdit