The War on Drugs – “An Ocean in Between the Waves” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

Ever feel like life is a journey through a misty landscape where the more you seek clarity, the more elusive it becomes? That’s the essence of The War on Drugs’ “An Ocean in Between the Waves”. It’s a song that captures the restlessness of a traveler, the longing for connection, and the struggles against life’s relentless push. The song is a lyrical journey through uncertainty, searching for a sense of belonging and identity amidst life’s turmoil. It’s not just about a person but about everyone’s inner battle to find their place. It was penned in a moment of introspection, perhaps when the songwriter felt the weight of these universal struggles.

Imagine sailing on a sea where every wave whispers a different story. That’s what uncovering the layers of “An Ocean in Between the Waves” feels like. Let’s set sail on this lyrical voyage together.


“An Ocean in Between the Waves” Lyrics Meaning

The song starts with a declaration of independence and a glimpse into a nomadic life – “Run away, I’m a traveling man”. It paints a picture of someone constantly on the move, working tirelessly. There’s a sense of weariness as the protagonist watches someone struggle to make a decision while life pours down on them, like rain.

Then comes the rebellion against the powers that be – “I bet against the company, again”. It’s a metaphor for challenging the status quo, the prescribed life paths that don’t resonate with the traveler’s spirit. The affirmation “Gotta know you’re mine” may be a plea for certainty in a relationship or a broader cry to the universe for a sign of belonging.

The wild wind and the unsteady heart, the images are vivid. They evoke the feeling of change, of something once familiar now becoming foreign. The traveler is in their “finest hour” yet doubts if they can rise above being “just a fool”. The hardest moments to see clearly are just before a revelation, “Right before the moon”.

As we reach the chorus, there’s a cosmic shift. A “black sun rising” signifies a new beginning, but it’s shrouded in mystery, an eclipse on the horizon. The repeated questioning of how to be free speaks to an existential crisis. Freedom is not just physical but mental emancipation, the ability to “lay in the moonlight” and just be.

The closing lines are the most haunting. Our traveler stands on a “darkened hillside,” surrounded by a “haze right between the trees”. It’s an image of being close to finding what they’re seeking – clarity, understanding, connection – but not quite there. The other person is “like an ocean in between the waves,” vast and overwhelming, yet in that vastness lies the possibility of connection, of finding oneself in another, if only they can navigate the waves.

The Story Behind “An Ocean in Between the Waves”

The songwriter, presumably at a crossroads, crafts this piece as a mirror to their soul-searching. The songwriting likely came from a place of reflection, of personal and perhaps professional upheaval. It’s a snapshot of a moment in life where everything seems in flux, and the writer is trying to pin down something, anything, to make sense of the chaos.

Songs like this are born from the need to articulate the inarticulable – that deep sense of yearning for something more, that frustration with the confines of our constructed world, and that hope that beyond the uncertainty lies truth and beauty. It’s a moment of reckoning with oneself, questioning life choices and yearning for a sense of purpose that aligns with one’s deepest desires. The song is a canvas where these complex emotions are painted in vivid lyrical brushstrokes, encouraging listeners to find their own meaning between the lines.