2012 is shaping up to be all about the women of indie music. We covered incredible albums from First Aid Kit and Sharon van Etten already and Heartless Bastards are equally deserving of praise. Erika Wennerstrom is the heart and soul of Heartless Bastards and she’s at her best on Arrow.
Arrow is the fourth album released from Heartless Bastards since 2005 and the first on Partisan Records. The album opens with “Marathon,” a down-temp song for those that have gotten off track and found themselves lost in life. It’s mostly just Erika and electric guitar and her voice is on full display.
We all want to belong
to something more than ourselves
because you can’t always do it alone
sometimes you just need
need a little help
on this long way home
on this long way home
And oh I, I ran so far
that I’ve forgotten
what I was running from
And time it takes you so far
And I am longing to be back home
On this long way home.
“Parted Ways” follows up and it has fueled several dance parties in my home – events attended only by myself, my 3 year old daughter and 1.5 year old son. This song is an addiction and I’m eager to find out if a better song will be released this year.
While “Parted Ways” is hard to move beyond, pay attention to the soulful “Only for You.” It’s a marvelous song that shows the full range of Erika’s voice which is nearly overshadowed by an amazing lead guitar throughout. “Gotta Have Rock and Roll” is a hard driving song powered by a simple guitar riff – it’s a song that would make Joan Jett proud. And “Skin and Bone” opens with an rootsy acoustic guitar that had me double checking my iPod for Blitzen Trapper on accidental shuffle.
“Low Low Low” gets even twangier with a change in production. I’m not sure if it’s a different room or a change in technique, but it’s more organic and Wennerstrom’s vocals are more distant – as if we’re hearing her in a barn or by campfire light. It’s a brilliant change of pace.
We’ve been Heartless Bastards fans forever. After their live session with us, I had a chance encounter with them. It was years ago after a full day of drinking that I found myself standing next to Erika at a late night Playboy party at SxSW, waiting for Janes Addiction to take the stage. There she was, randomly right next to me. I think I opened the conversation about us both being from Ohio and how much I love that state – or something equally stupid. Maybe a bunny walked by and I said “fancy meeting you here…” I can’t quite recall. I do recall her being one of the sweetest musicians I’ve ever met and it’s always an experience to see the band live. They will be touring now through May, so check their site for dates. Arrow will be released on Valentine’s Day.