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Japandroids, Near to the Wild Heart of Life

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Jon Dekel

If it feels like it's been a while since the blistering riffage and critic-drooling bacchanal of Celebration Rock turned Japandroids into your cool older sibling’s favourite band, that’s because, well, it has.

Luckily, on literarily minded third album, Near to the Wild Heart of Life, Vancouver duo Brian King and Dave Prowse return from their self-imposed, five-year exile to save rock 'n' roll — or at the very least light a guitar-fuelled fire under its behind.

Speaking to CBC Music, King describes the record as “a first foray into a whole new world” — one that saw the band experiment with ways to expand its sound, including acoustic guitars ("In a Body Like a Grave") and, on seven-minute shoegaze centrepiece, “Arc of Bar,” sequencers and programmed percussion. But lest fans worry the lean, mean, bombastic rock machine has gone all Emerson Lake & Palmer, fret not: there’s more than enough fist-pump inducing moments in the album’s titular, opening track alone to keep the celebration going long past Canada’s sesquicentennial.

Recorded “clandestinely” in Vancouver, Toronto, New Orleans and Mexico City between 2014 and 2015, Near to the Wild Heart of Life takes its title from Clarice Lispector's first novel of the same name.

According to the press release, the eight-song album is intended to be split into two storylines: “Side A (songs 1 to 4) and side B (songs 5 to 7) each follow their own loose narrative. Taken together as one, they form an even looser narrative, with the final song on side B, 'In a Body Like a Grave,' acting as an epilogue.”

“That’s not to say this is a record that you have to listen to start to finish on headphones with the lights off or you're not getting it,” King says. “It's more just pointing out these weren't just a random group of songs we threw together and made an album; there was some thought that went into the themes and the narratives and the kinds of things we wanted to say."

"This isn't just a collection of songs," he adds. "This is an album that we made as a whole.“

Near to the Wild Heart of Life will be released Jan. 27 via Arts & Crafts. You can pre-order the album digitally here.