Japandroids: Near to the Wild Heart of Life (ANTI-) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary

Near to the Wild Heart of Life


Jan 25, 2017 Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary Bookmark and Share

When Japandroids were recording their latest album, Near to the Wild Heart of Life, it would have been hard for them to conceive of the environment into which the album would finally be released. The album’s street date is January 27, 2017, a week after Donald J. Trump will repeat the Oath of Office to become President of the United States. It’s hard to imagine a more chilling example of the loss of hope so many people experienced in 2016.

So whatever Japandroids’ intentions, Near to the Wild Heart of Life arrives as a soaring balm for people looking to find a little hope. They perfected the formula on 2012’s Celebration Rock, and Near opens with a similarly thundering singalong, the title track, seemingly designed to be screamed back at a concert stage while hoisting numerous beersthe image of a chorus of fans yelling “I used to be good/now I’m bad” in unison is already chill-inducing.

The rest of the album keeps the hard-fought optimism coming, but takes more chances musically. Japandroids has always straddled the world of punk and Springsteen-y rock, and with this album, they drive full force into the latter camp. “North East South West” is a love song to Canada, as if the Boss called Winnipeg home rather than Jersey.

There are musical changes as well. Famously only made up of a drummer and a guitarist, Japandroids actually feature some keyboards and other instruments on Near. “Arc of Bar” uses keyboards to create a song that wouldn’t sound of place in the Brit-revival of the early ‘90s, recalling early Oasis (but in a good way). “No Known Drink or Drug” is maybe the sweetest expression of real love to come out of indie rock in years, and is loaded with “sha-na-na-na"s sure to play great in concert. Closer “In a Body Like a Grave” builds from shimmering Brian Eno ambience to a gigantic, life-affirming climax, and it’s sure to feature on plenty of festival stages this summer.

You already know if you want a Japandroids’ album-once again, they’ve provided a 30-minute blast of hopeful, soaring rock. There are some differences on this album (better lyrics, different instruments, and better mixing), but perhaps the biggest difference is a world in which a blast of hope is more needed than ever. (www.japandroids.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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