Heartless Bastards, who now dwell in Austin, or so rumor has it, have garnered a lot of claim in recent years for their passionate tunes. They’ve been backed by some big names, though we should probably just stick to the music. The Mountain, their third full-length hits stores this week, ready to establish the band as one of the lead acts across the states.
Looking through a list of the band’s influences, it’s easy to see where the guitar sounds come from on album opener “The Mountain,” as the band blatantly wears their Pixies homage on their sleeves. But, they aren’t one to simply regurgitate sounds of the past, instead adding pedal steel to complete the transfer of the past towards a more modern means. It’s one of the telling signs of growth, as this record shows that they completely own their sound, packed full of tidbits from the great landscape of American underground music.
Once again, singer Erika Winnerstrom’s voice dominates the entirety of this album. At every turn it’s full of passion and pain, simple and yet never overstated. It’s not every day that you can find such a deep voice that carries an encouraging femininity along with it, which shows you just how much power the young lady holds. It’s got remnants in the soul-inspired folk rock of past days, yet you can immediately see the relevance it has in today’s music scene.
You will find it difficult to place the band’s exact sound, or at least locate a genre in which the band will dwell. For all intents and purposes, the band never seems to stay in one place at one time. After the opener, with all its influences, the band jumps into a more direct country sound on “Be So Happy,” this just before the go into a Dinosaur Jr.-esque romper in “Early in the Morning.” All this before going back to a more roots based folk sound.
Despite the power possessed by Winnerstrom, her voice seems to be more suited to the slower tunes here. Beneath the lyrics and the structure of the songs, you can see her personality clearly coming through, begging to be listened to by everyone. Okay, so maybe we’re harping too much on her voice here, but it’s the most recognizable medium on the album, and the one all listeners will most likely attach themselves to when listening to the album. Clearly she can hold her own here, although at times, the songs do seem to drag on a little long, and that may wear the effects of her voice out a bit.
Three albums in, and the band is building on their strengths, pushing forward with solid tunes, and yes, it’s all backed by the power of Erika Winnerstrom’s voice, but who wouldn’t want to listen to a voice like this? And please excuse the poor cover art.