The Best Singles of 2016, #17


17. Japandroids, “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”

In a year when the most critically acclaimed indie rock band is the woefully milquetoast Car Seat Headrest, thank freaking goodness for the long-awaited return of Japandroids. And what a return, as their first track in four years is a welcome burst of energy and joy. I wil always be a sucker for a good, Springsteen-esque (or Westerbergian) coming-of-age rock ‘n’ roll tune, and this is the best I’ve heard in years. Essentially singer/guitarist Brian King is channeling James Joyce as he muses about that moment when he decided to leave home. It’s a simple sketch of his last night in town, and continuing the Joyce angle, there’s a decided Irish pub song melody to the whole song, and the wide-eyed honesty, vulnerability, and excitement of the lyrics is palpable to the point of exhilaration:

It was last call at my local
And I stalled saying goodbye
So the girl behind the bar came over
And she took me aside
She kissed me like a chorus, said
“Give ‘em hell for us
The last drink of the night, last night in town
Baby, this one is on the house”

And it got me all fired up
To go far away
And make some ears ring from the sound of my singing, baby