How good is the new Japandroids album? So good it might be the best rock album we’ve seen since their last effort? I’m inclined to say yes — I’ve been glued to it and its hooks, pounding rhythms, expert production…there’s a lot to love here even before you unpack the meaning. At the moment, one song in particular has me totally hooked — “True Love and A Free Life of Free Will.”

When I first heard the album this song stood out but not in a major way; the album is pretty short so it was easy to remember what song was which and feel the entire flow at the same time. But over the past week or so, “True Love…” is my jam. It’s got a slow march feel that reminds me of “Continuous Thunder,” and brilliantly simple little scenes of cafes and catinas. Japandroids songs have a way of being deeply poetic and emotional without being too purple, too snobby, or too high-minded, which is why I think they have so much pull with critics and people who listen to music for a living. “True Love..” is a slow jam, the closet thing to a ballad on Near to the Wild Heart of Life, but it’s got a pounding rhythm and fuzzy aplenty to give it rock and roll heart.

It doesn’t take too long to decode the meaning behind a Japandroids song, another reason they’re so fun to listen to and write about to boot. “Spill your secrets and paint my days,” Brian King sings in a desperate plea. Then, later, he ends a verbose verse with “a little money and whatever’s on the radio,” , as if it is a throwaway line but it is anything but, instead it sets a tangible scene. The final chorus — which gets me every time — kicks in with a delicate guitar line before building to an outro, a really simple setting but a satisfying one nonetheless, as Japandroids are wont to do.

With only eight of them, every track on “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” shows the scenes of a life that all connect back to the same themes — ambition, risk and reward, mortality. All are powerful, but it’s the love songs that make the heart ache and cry and sing — “No Known Drink or Drug” is one of the band’s best songs yet and it’s a total sing-it-from-the-rafters anthem to love. “True Love,” with its romantic notions and realistic landscape, is absolutely stunning to me — it’s a perfect summation of the dare-to-dream, dare-to-love attitude the album is all about.

“Plans to settle down
Plans to up and split
Plans loose as the morals we are planning with
Baby be the beast, but free what burdens be
And I’ll love you if you love me.”

~True Love and A Free Life of Free Will
Japandroids, Near to the Wild Heart of Life