Vancouver-based indie-rock duo Japandroids’ new album Near to the Wild Heart of Life is an ode to rebellion and joy. Keeping tradition with the band’s typically uplifting lyricism, the opening titular track gets the listener “fired up,” and urges the listener to not “leave your dreams to chance or to a spirit in the sky.”
This song introduces larger themes that course through the album: the daunting pursuit of happiness and freedom, and the juxtaposition between the comfort of home and the adventure of new places, backed by an almost adolescent, reckless energy.
The album’s second offering, “North East South West,” explores relationships through Canadian geography.
David Prowse’s persistent, flowing drumbeats continue through “True Love and a Free Life of Free Will,” a song that reconciles freedom with loving devotion. “I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)” is a distorted love song reminiscent of an older Blur song with repeated, hypnotic lyrics.
Japandroids have been experimenting with different types of effects and synthesizers on this album – something new for the band. While this adds additional texture to some songs, it fits comfortably within their usual style of pulsing alt-rock, with tracks that tend to perpetually sound like they’re on the verge of euphoria.
“Midnight to Morning” and “No Known Drink or Drug” bring the listener back to a very familiar lyrical stomping ground for rock: yearning for a distant love. The album ends on the meditative “In a Body Like a Grave,” a more existential, pondering tune that’s fitting for the end of the album.
Near to the Wild Heart is filled with anthemic alt-rock that sometimes verges on the territory of cheesiness, but overall, it’s an enjoyable ride.