Coming fresh from a nearly five-year hiatus, Canada’s Japandroids
return with their third studio album, Near to the Wild Heart of Life
, and show that they’ve grown up in their time away.
The record opens with the title track and lead single of the album, setting the tone for what’s to come in the next seven songs. It combines melodic and crunchy synth/guitars with a steady drum beat, leaving the chorus stuck in your head for days. Seemingly autobiographical in nature, it’s about a young man realizing his dreams and leaving his hometown behind.
Continuing into “North East South West,” frontman Brian King
sings of his travels throughout the U.S. and Canada and pining for his love. That theme is stretched into “I’m Sorry (for Not Finding You Sooner).” Here, though, distortion is added to King’s vocals and gets lost in the guitar melody. The beauty is the simplicity; this song is mostly a repetition of the same lyrics: “From every day at dawn, through to the dead of night, I’m sorry for not finding you sooner, I was looking for you all my life.” This is the love song we’ve all wanted to write at one point or another, but have overcomplicated it.
A standout track on the album is its longest, “Arc of Bar,” which seems to pay the most homage to the classic rock inspiration. The culmination of synthesizers and stadium rock, its chorus is simply the word “yeah” sung several times.
The maturity of the record comes in “No Known Drink or Drug,” where King sings of moving past the vices of his younger self while on tour. “Passport, past life, a drifter’s demons,” the song opens, crescendoing to the declaration that, “No known drink, no known drug, could ever hold a candle to your love.”
Near to the Wild Heart of Life
is a more well-rounded and structured sound than the band’s first two albums. It continues to make the most of King’s voice and David Prowse
’s drum talents, but while focusing on lessons learned in their time away from the spotlight. It’s as if the group is trying to reaffirm themselves, their mission, and humanity, all in a well-written and polished eight songs.
Japandroids return to Philadelphia later this month, playing two shows at Union Transfer
on February 24th and 25th (the 24th is SOLD OUT).