Back in 2005, Ohio’s alternative rock quartet Heartless Bastards released their debut album via Fat Possum Records after The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney passed along a demo he received from vocalist Erika Wennerstrom. The album, titled Stairs and Elevators, received high praise from music publications throughout the US and led the band on their way to stardom. Ten years later, Heartless Bastards are back with their fifth studio album, Restless Ones, released on June 16th via Partisan Records. Upon the album announcement, Wennerstrom hinted that Restless Ones may mark a departure from their usual sound, stating, “We took a lot of chances, taking the sound in a different directions in order to grow. I don’t ever want to make the same album twice.”
While Heartless Bastards’ earlier tracks may have leaned towards an indie folk sound, but things really have changed this time around. Wind Up Bird opens the new record with deep, mesmerising vocals and soaring guitars, bringing in a much heavier grunge atmosphere. The melodies in this track are almost comparable to that of British band Big Sixes, but deafening baselines soon dismiss that idea. Next up, single Gates of Dawn kicks off with an acoustic riff, similar to the opening riff in Semisonic’s Closing Time. Heartless Bastard’s influences really shine through in Black Cloud, with hints of the Pixies and the Flaming Lips making an appearance, while Hi-Line takes us back to that original folky summer sound that made us fall in love with Heartless Bastards to begin with.
The halfway mark greets us with the spectacular Journey. Wennerstrom’s vocals sit perfectly between the likes of Florence Welch and Amy Macdonald, while the guitar work has a distinct Americana feel to it, before Pocket Full of Thirst makes the transition into a warm, echoing ballad. Into the Light takes the form of a jazzy rock ‘n’ roll masterpiece that neatly sidesteps rockabilly, while The Fool and Eastern Wind sees Heartless Bastards take on an impressive Cranberries-meets-No Doubt sound, before the record closes with the haunting Tristessa.
Check out Gates of Dawn below: