Album Review: Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart Of Life

Review from Ben Forrester

Review from Ben Forrester

2012 was the year that Japandroids became everyone’s favorite band. Although they already had a fierce fan base behind them, it was their second album ‘Celebration Rock‘ that pretty much tripled it. Following the raw, infectious approach of their early material, Celebration Rock did exactly what it said on the tin, soaring the two-piece to new, anthemic heights. After an almost non-stop touring schedule, the band took some well deserved time off with no further plans set. Thankfully, the Vancouver based duo re-appeared towards the tail end of 2016 with a triumphant return to the live circuit and the announcement of their highly anticipated third LP ‘Near To The Wild Heart Of Life‘.

The album’s title and opening track was released a few months back and has gotten fans very excited. It was the fist pumping punk-rock song we all wanted to hear, with an impassioned chorus that will make you want to get drunk and hug all your mates. In terms of songwriting, the band make strides into big and bold sing-a-long’s throughout, with a very heart on its sleeve attitude that seems determined to bring back the spirit many of us have lost over the past twelve months.

Production wise, it flits between the widescreen and the raw. The drums and gang vocals sound like they’ve been recorded in some abandoned swimming pool with this lovely, wide, natural reverb sound. The guitar sounds are sharp yet full of warmth, going through rickety vintage amps that could tell you a story or two. This isn’t to say that the production on this record is straight forward though, with a few moments that help compliment it’s more bulkier and anthemic demeanor.

Im Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)‘ does feature a bit of studio trickery, closing the first half of the record with a swirling guitar melody and various percussive sounds bouncing from ear to ear. Complete with a passionate vocal take soaked in distortion and delay, it acts as this angular ballad type track that really grabs you by the heart strings. Following that and opening up the second half of the record is the pulsating 80’s synth drive of ‘Arc Of Bar‘ which turns into this 7 and half minute power-pop monster!

There are most definitely a few jump around punk-rock bangers present, but I would say that a majority of the tracks on here play heavily with dynamics, some building to heart-on-sleeve crescendos (‘No Known Drink Or Drug‘, ‘North East South West’), while others keep a constant pulsating and rousing stomp throughout (‘Midnight to Morning’, ‘True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will’).

To me, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life acts as a continuation from it’s predecessor but with a further exploration of sonics, dynamics and songwriting. I will admit, I’ve always preferred the scrappy punk yelps of their very early material, but there is no denying the sincerity and chemistry that Brian and David have and for that, I expect this album is going to put a lot of fire back into a lot of bellies this year.

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