Arrow

MUSIC REVIEW

At its core, rock and roll is the antithesis of maturity. Yet ARROW (Partisan), the new album from HEARTLESS BASTARDS, is that rarest of things: a hard-driving record marked by some hard-earned wisdom. The group, which formed in Ohio in 2003, first came to national attention a couple of years later, thanks to an endorsement from Patrick Carney, of the Black Keys. After releasing two albums, vocalist/guitarist Erika Wennerstrom, the band’s only constant member, disbanded the group (when her relationship with bassist Mike Lamping ended) and moved to Austin to start over with a new lineup. As a result, the group’s 2009 release, The Mountain , sounded like the work of a band still finding its way. But now that the Bastards, moving from a trio to a four-piece, have solidified, the music and arrangements lock in with newfound ease. Where the group’s earlier recordings seemed a bit overwrought, striving for hard-rock thunder, new songs like “Simple Feeling,” “Down in the Canyon,” and the Crazy Horse–inspired “The Arrow Killed the Beast” let the storms roll in naturally. Producer Jim Eno (of Spoon) conjures a live, seventies vibe and puts Wennerstrom’s confident, note-bending vocals up front. Better still, she delivers a set of songs that bristle with both optimism and vulnerability. “I’m on my way,” she declares in the album’s opener, “Marathon,” making clear that she’s determined to put past hurt behind her. “Too many things have changed,” she sings on another song. “I just don’t look at things the same way now / Since we parted ways.”

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