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Japandroids’ ‘Near to the Wild Heart of Life’ soars into rapture

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It’ll make you want to ride off into the sunset.
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Three and a half stars

Japandroids Near to the Wild Heart of Life

If they’d done nothing else, Vancouver’s Japandroids would deserve our admiration for 2012 single “The House That Heaven Built,” a garage anthem that soars past excitement into rapture. Genuine, roofless optimism is tough to pull off, and on Near to the Wild Heart of Life, Japandroids scale those heights seconds into the album-opening title track. Guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse deliver another Hüsker Dü/Springsteen hybrid, one that contains both a problem (“The future’s under fire/The past is gaining ground/A continuous cold war”) and its solution (“May your heart always be ardent/Your conscience always clear”).

Other highlights follow similarly giddy blueprints. Half the run time of “No Known Drink or Drug” builds to its chorus, which fills the other half. “North East South West” takes E Street back to Canada. And “Midnight to Morning” makes the album’s open-highway feel explicit (“I pray those yellow lines on the I-5/Bring me back home to you”). By the time Wild Heart concludes, you’re ready to trade everything you own for a motorcycle and ride straight off the edge of the world.

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