Heartless Bastards – The Mountain [Album Review]

by Woody on February 4, 2009

heartless bastards

Erika Wennerstrom moved to Austin, picked up a new rhythm section and yesterday just released her best and most ambitious album to date. I have been infatuated with the Heartless Bastards since first hearing Stairs and Elevators in 2004. Erika’s voice has the perfect combination of power and fragility that keeps you hanging on every word.

It’s her voice that captivates me on songs like “Be So Happy,” a simple tune backed by an acoustic guitar arrangement. It’s the‚  standout on the album for me, but The Mountain also introduces a host of new instruments not normally heard on a Heartless Bastards album. Throughout this release you’ll hear banjo, fiddle, mandolin sprinkled throughout. Producer Mike McCarthy, who has worked with Spoon, really opened up the band added a little something to their bag of tricks. As for the rhythm section, they bring a little extra oomph to the proceedings. On “Wide Awake,” Jesse Ebaugh lays down a furious bass line and Dave Colvin isn’t shy about laying down his own powerful flourishes on the kit.

The Mountain is much more polished than the Heartless Bastards’ prior two releases, but the production is accomplished in a way that doesn’t abandon the sound that has drawn thousands of fans to their bluesy, throwback sound. Much like The Black Keys’ latest release, Attack & Release, The Mountain is another successful effort from a native-Ohio band.

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Heartless Bastards – The Mountain

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick February 6, 2009 at 11:06 pm

It’s beginning to get my goat, bands releasing albums with the standout track being the first track, why do they do it? It cheapens the album, its like they are acting as if they have no confidence in the rest of the album, ‘so we’d better get the good one in first’. What ever happened to leaving the strongest runner until last? Anchoring the team.

Shirk February 7, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Give the entire album a few more runs through front to back. On the first few listens, The Mountain seemed like the standout to me, as well. But after a few days I found myself gravitating toward “Hold Your Head High”, “Wide Awake” and “Sway” (the album closer…and my favorite track) To each his/her own, but I feel this album has A LOT more to offer than just, “The Mountain”.

Patrick February 7, 2009 at 6:57 pm

But isn’t there some art in structuring an album? Just like a setlist at a live show. I suppose they are accounting for the impatient listeners among us.

nittanyroar February 25, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Just picked this up the other day. Knocked it out of the park with this one Woody, damn this is a great album. Just the other day I proclaimed “To Willie” to be at the top of my best of list (I tend to get hyperbolic with music, fuck it) but this is my new king (queen?). You hit it dead on about her voice being a mix of power and fragility.

Would it be a safe bet that I’d like their previous efforts? I can’t thank you guys enough man, the thought of not hearing some of the bands HearYa has turned me on to sucks. Keep it up fellas.

Woody February 25, 2009 at 8:18 pm

While this is her most ambitious release yet, I would find it hard to imagine that you wouldn’t like her previous efforts. I like Stairs and Elevators better than All This Time but both are excellent. And if you get a chance to see them live, don’t miss it. They’re outstanding live.

Vanessa February 26, 2009 at 7:52 am

I concur with Woody that they are fantastic live. I was fortunate to catch them at the Abbey when Langhorne Slim opened. Surprisingly most folks bolted after Slim…they missed out BIG time as the HBs gave a powerful heartfelt performance that left me, at least, with a large smile.
I’m drawn to Erika’s voice. For such a slight presence, it’s amazing how strong her voice is. She rawks my world.
Hopefully it will be easy to catch them at SXSW

macias monsivais victor hugo July 21, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Su música es lo mejor que he escuchado desde hace tiempo atras, out to sea, sway, y otras son mis favoritas, los espero en Saltillo ,Coahuila México.

doug May 2, 2010 at 11:07 pm

unfortunately the band she plays with now didn’t even play on the album the mountain. her label hired a bunch of pros to make her sound better. i think she would be better solo.

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