New Music Monday: Heartless Bastards

Heartless bastards

September 18, 2004:  An early morning flight under a thin overcast layer revealed this quilt-like vista southwest of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Fall is an amazing time in farm country. For most of the year, fields tend to be the same color when viewed from above: white in winter, brown in spring, green during the summer. But the fall harvest brings out an amazing variety of color across the landscape. I suspect that the overhead cloud layer and low angle of the morning sun may have contributed a quality of light that accentuated the color differences more than usual.Heartless Bastards’ fifth album, titled Restless Ones and coming out June 16th via Partisan Records, reveals an experienced group fully in touch with one another’s abilities. The band’s sound remains within their roots rock wheelhouse but betrays no lack of creativity.

“Hi-Line,” Restless Ones‘ fourth track, is straightforward alt-country given an extra jolt thanks to vocalist Erika Wennerstrom’s voice and lyrics. The track, along with the rest of the album, sees her exploring as-yet-unvisited avenues of sound and sensation, her bravery and ambition readily apparent in the emotional timbre and the sheer physicality of her songs.

“Hi-Line” is surrounded by two of the catchiest tracks on the album, “Black Cloud” and “Journey.” Both songs, like much of the album, deal with personal realizations Wennerstrom had in the time between the release of Heartless Bastard’s previous album, Arrow, and the recording of Restless Ones. “Black Cloud” features the lines, “I had spun out and filled myself with doubt. I was standing in the doorway with the key to my own suffering, and I said to myself, ‘There’s no use trying to be what you want me to be,” while “Journey’s” reminds the listener that the “journey is the destination.”

These are familiar sentiments, and as the saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt.” It is simple to be contemptuous of those feelings, but Wennerstrom’s voice does not allow for it. These mantras are true for Wennerstrom, and the power in her singing communicates not just the idea but the experience, too.

The band released the music video for the album’s first single, “Gates of Dawn,” on May 14 and Restless Ones comes out June 16 on Partisan Records. The video is viewable below, and the album is available for preorder on Amazon, iTunes, and Partisan.