Restless Ones, Heartless Bastards’ fifth studio release, belies the Austin band’s name with a gorgeous set of sounds pulled from somewhere deep and delivered with an overdue kiss or something more animal to the center of the soul.
Recorded over ten days amid the pecan groves and kilim rugs of El Paso’s Sonic Ranch, the album is a tight chronicle of a life caught off track and meandering, with Erika Wennerstrom (voice), Mark Nathan (guitar), Jesse Ebaugh (bass), and Dave Colvin (drums) guiding along and not really worried about reaching anyplace particular, content on the luxuriant path. Allow yourself the pleasure of piecing together Wennerstrom’s words, but whether you get them or not, Restless Ones drenches like a good southern rain, lush and satisfying and delicious.
Assuming the listener’s own heart is a ragged battle-scarred mess, preferable to the pristine after all, the wistful opener “Wind Up Bird” is familiar. Wennerstrom’s “should have known better, I knew all along” gives way to mad squelch and then the opening of “Gates of Dawn,” and that molasses voice matches rich musical everything all the way through to “Tristessa,” the album’s transcendent close.
If it seems a few tracks have been skipped over here, be heartened that every one is divine, especially when featuring Wennerstrom’s lonely howl, as “Hi-Line,” an otherwise bouncy bit of nostalgia, does. “Pocket Full of Thirst” may be the most gorgeous slow track I’ve heard excepting Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” full-on rich as hell thanks to both its message and, again, Wennerstrom’s anything-but-heartless timbre, and “The Fool,” with its intentional-or-not Sundays-sounding intro and that lovelorn “I need someone to hold me” howl, is the track any listener with a damned heart will carry around for a while, if not always.