Of Dominoes And Prose And Delta Blues

The latest from Japandroids puts distance between itself and expectations. “Near To The Wild Heart Of Life” straddles the line between Rock and Indie-Pop, using just enough production to make the sound friendly to new listeners. It doesn’t take an audiophile to recognize that there are more than two instruments on any given track. This signifies a shift in the goals of the band. Prior to the release, Brian King and David Prowse had sat down with Entertainment Weekly where Brian remarked on the differences in their writing strategies. On their latest, the band would aim, not for a ‘live-show’ driven album, but one that made use of the studio in ways that the band had yet to explore.

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Side A:

Near to the Wild Heart of Life’s opening/title track makes it very clear this album will run very different than the duo’s previous releases. A strong opening with an anthemic chorus and layered refrain sets the tone for the album. While lyrically simple, the title track echoes themes of adventure and freedom. It’s a song less about leaving home and more about chasing dreams and rock and roll itself. Exemplifying the duo’s shift towards a more classic rock-influenced sound.

The unbridled punk-rock feel of their back catalogue well in their past, Japandroids build on the title track with a fast-paced rock song with a wicked time change around the three-minute mark flowing into a chorus that demands to sung. North East South West plays like a classic road song. It hits all the places we’ve been and everywhere we want to be.

Like its predecessor, True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will, includes a ringing of an acoustic guitar but not before a synthesizer counts in the song. The stomping drums and the ringing chords harken back to old school rockers like Bruce Springsteen. The song is about promises broken and the weight they carry.

I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner) closes Side A on a slower note, serving more as a break than a fully fledged song. Subdued synthesizers take the foreground filling the air in a very “wall of sound” sort of way.

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Side B:

Arc Of Bar marries the crispness of pop production and the grit of rock and roll. The “Yeahs” fill the chorus that just begs to be screamed from the first listen. Written in and based on the city of New Orleans, Japandroids make full use of the technology at hand layering guitar loops under the driving power the two are known for. Though it clocks in at just over seven minutes it never bores. A different picture is painted with each verse and by the end of the song a collage assembles as exuberant and colourful as the city from which it was inspired.

The choruses often serve as the backbone for songs. Midnight To Morning is all about the chorus. Minimal drums march to a resounding crash signaling a chorus that buries itself deep in your ears. In contrast to earlier songs on the album, this track is about returning home and leaving behind the rock star lifestyle. This song is likely about the three-year hiatus the two took prior to working on this album.

No Known Drink Or Drug is a classic love song complete with “sha-na-na-na-na” resonating through much of the song. Opening with an overdriven guitar, the duo takes a step closer to their roots to deliver one of, if not the, strongest track on the album. The second shortest song on the album, it is short, sweet, to the point and equipped with a rhythm that you can’t help but rock out to. Expect this one to be coming to a radio station near you soon.

The final song fades in with synthesizers leading to the rhythmic pounding of power chords. The song opens on a series of one-liners that are bound to strike a chord with anyone. All about life and aging. A fitting end to an album that marks maturity for Vancouver’s very own.

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Essential Tracks

  • Near To The Wild Heart Of Life
  • North East South West
  • Arc Of Bar
  • No Known Drink Or Drug

Stay tuned for more album reviews coming soon.

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