by Luis Gómez
I hadn’t listened to the rest of Japandroids’ discography before starting this album so I didn’t know what to expect, but then the first track was about leaving your hometown and I suddenly knew exactly what to expect. Their new album, Near to the Wild Heart Of Life, draws on a varied list of influences to create an across-rock group of tracks, with some songs bringing in distinct country or punk flavors.
What makes the album really notable is the fact that Japandroids just straight up disappeared after their last album tour. And then they just kinda announced this album would be coming out. And then it did. And it’s pretty good! The music is all upbeat and peppy, and Japandroids’ production is crisp. Tracks like “I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)” actually do a fair amount of emotional storytelling with ease, while other tracks are simplistic alt-whatever tracks that are a pleasure to listen to.
However, there’s a sameness about everything here, in part because in drawing from so many influences the album ends up losing a sense of central identity. Each song cascades into the next, and while that makes the album easy to listen to, it’s also kinda boring and lifeless. I wish there was some genuinely distinct track, but the album really just becomes a 40-minute single. Ultimately, Japandroids’ new project is nice, but underwhelms where
it matters. Insert bad android-based pun here.