PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Heartless Bastards: Restless Ones

Photo: Courtney Chavanell

Heartless Bastards' dusty, rusty Restless Ones finds so much joy in its detours that it’s hard to argue with its wanderlust logic.

Heartless Bastards

Restless Ones

Label: Partisan
US Release Date: 2015-06-16
UK Release Date: 2015-06-16

Heartless Bastards are an earthy band. That goes beyond their album titled The Mountain or their buffalo-centric art work. The Ohioan garage rockers have always played their blues with a strange sort of tectonic power, with a love for rumbling guitars aided by Erika Wennerstrom’s mystic croon. Restless Ones finds the band infusing their sound with another source of energy: all of their solos and fiery choruses seem solar powered, and the dusty, anthemic and arena ready record is all the better for it.

Despite the blues-rock foundation and occasional lo-fi fuzz, Restless Ones is a wonderfully polished album. “Hi Line” serves as the instantly catchy single: warm harmonies twist and turn around Wennerstrom as an equally comforting bass line holds everything together. The chorus cuts things to half time, just before the rippling mandolin announces the return of the verse. There’s a hint of ‘90s alt-rock here, a bit of “Interstate Love Song” or something of the sort running through the blood of “Hi Line.” “Gates of Dawn” holds an indie-ish guitar layer in its chorus, reminiscent of Pavement, and it’s one of the catchiest moments here. These are the most obvious, pop-like pieces, but Heartless Bastards happily convert those sleeker stylings into the nooks and crannies of Restless Ones.

“Wind Up Bird” opens the album with sky-high guitar leads, before slowing down to a molasses like pace in the verse. Wennerstrom often takes the center stage through her voice and lyrics, but Restless Ones is a guitar album through and through. This guitar-centric style is not in the Eddie Van Halen sense, but in the fun yet utterly composed way that propels the entire album. That’s not a slight toward bassist Jesse Ebaugh’s work. His chugging and grooving bass completely controls the driven rhythm of “The Fool” up until the chorus, where Wennerstrom takes over. In a herky-jerky groove, Wennerstrom and an accompanying harmony proclaim she’s the titular “fool”, but it still manages to sound sunny.

Wennerstrom’s warm, worn voice is the core of Restless Ones. Everything, from the drum fills to the guitar effects seems sun-soaked, but Wennerstrom’s tales of travel and longing that make the album a summer/roadtrip must have -- doesn’t hurt to have song titles like “Journey”, either. In fact, it’s that song that lays out one of Restless Ones’ central themes. Wennerstrom details a consuming laziness that’s soon combated by the “the bustle of the city is making me want to thrive / we’re making our way to the sun.” The chorus goes “now it’s suddenly clear, the journey’s the destination”; an old cliché, true, but this, dusty, rusty album finds so much joy in the detours that it’s hard to argue with its wanderlust logic. “Pocket Full of Thirst” follows “Journey” and is one of the album’s most stripped back tracks, with dusky guitars and light tom hits accenting Wennerstrom’s “sleep walking” and her mournful descriptions of how she “set myself on fire / and jumped into the lake / disguise myself as someone else / so you could not break me.” It’s certainly not as upbeat as “Journey”, but, like the rest of the album, it speaks to a basic need. As fellow alt-country vagabond Shakey Graves said, some of us are built to roam.

It should be noted that Restless Ones has a time stamped enjoyment limit. The warmth the album brings is increased exponentially by summer heat, hiking and long midday drives, but there’s something lost when the bouncy joy of “The Fool” is placed next to a rainy day. But who knows? it might have the power to force a few rays of light to burst forth in the cooler months.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.