Album Of The Year (Of The Week): Japandroids 'Near To The Wild Heart Of Life'!

Brian King and David Prowse of Japandroids

Those able to get past the name (awful-at-worst and misleading-at best), or forgive the fact that yet another rowdy guitar-drums duo is vying for your ears' attention, will be rewarded ten-fold by wrapping their ears around Japandroids' third LP, Near To The Wild Heart of Life.

After two albums and a comp for the Champaign-Urbana Polyvinyl label, singer Brian King and drummer David Prowse inexplicably called it quits in 2013, but comeback shows in August 2016 not only reinvigorated the fanbase, but hinted at new material being in the works.

Signing to ANTI no doubt gave the band a bigger budget to work with this time around and, yes, the production on this effort bristles with a sonic depth unheard on previous efforts, but one could hardly call the album a stylistic departure for the duo. In fact, if anything, the band seems to have honed their sound to its most concise and potent elements to create an album that is both "bigger than life" and rewards repeat listens.

The press has been quick in the past to compare the duo's anthemic style to Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty, but perhaps the most accurate comparisons are to the Alarm, Husker Du and House Of Freaks, a sorely overlooked 80s guitar-drums duo who created the sonic template the likes of the White Stripes and Black Keys have utilized to great success.

Where those acts honed a minimalist, root-based sound stuck in a sort of alternate-50's landscape, Japandroids, much like the aforementioned House of Freaks, deal strictly in barn-burning rock anthems tailor-made for sold-out stadiums.

Best cuts: Near To The Wild Heart of Life, Arc of Bar, No Known Drink or Drug

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