Tag Archives: Erika Wennerstrom

Review: Sweet Unknown – Erika Wennerstrom

For years, we have been blessed with the music of Heartless Bastards. And while the band has largely been a vehicle for the compositions of Erika Wennerstrom, it was the complete package that made the music so much fun to listen to. And with a gorgeous front to sing the songs, with a unique voice, the whole experience was a fine one.

Several years back, the band decided to take a hiatus with no planned return date. This spurred the engine of Heartless Bastards into overdrive, deciding to rightfully jump into the pool of solo waters. As a result, Erika Wennerstrom has journeyed a long, long way to provide a new energy. That energy is found in the stunning new album, Sweet Unknown.

The title is a borrow from a previous lyric (“Could Be So Happy”) and easily provides an apt title for her new venture, a place she hasn’t been to before. And nor have we. But I’m here to tell you, the air is indeed sweet to breathe.

Sweet Unknown has nine new Erika Wennerstrom songs. The music on this new album are rich, professional, and powerful tunes. You get a feel that she is in a zone of her own. And if that’s the case, then I welcome the new face of Heartless Bastards as Erika Wennerstrom, the solo artist.

In an age of a thousand releases a week, it’s important to recognize the better ones. Sweet Unknown, if I may borrow a line, is without question, an album of ‘extraordinary love’. Sweet Unknown is Grammy territory!

Erika Wennerstrom (Heartless Bastards) To Release Debut Solo Album, Sweet Unknown

For many years, the under-construct of Heartless Bastards has Erika Wennerstrom.  Throughout their magnificent career, Erika was always at the heart of the band. Most of the songs, if not all of them, were written by Erika. In fact, the lineup had changed several times with Erika remaining as the core. And now, we get a long overdue Erika Wennerstrom album with her name as the focal point! I’m ready for this!

On March 23, Partisan Records (Heartless Bastards’ label over the last two releases (Arrow – 2012, Restless Ones – 2015)) will issue the next evolutionary step in the Heartless Bastards tree with the first solo album by Erika Wennerstrom. The new album is being called Sweet Unknown, which is a lyric phrase pulled from an HB song, “Could Be So Happy” (from The Mountain -2009).

If you’re interested in bundles and swag, then hop over to the PledgeMusic site where the album is crowdfunded for a wealth of bundling and cool things (including a $4000 house concert. If only I had the nickels and dimes for this one!).

Sweet Unknown will contain nine new Wennerstrom tracks. The heralding song, “Extraordinary Love” is now available as of a few days ago. It strongly indicates a great awaiting experience. The music from the song is warmly comfortable. It’s familiar and strong.

Sweet Unknown will be released on CD, DD, and vinyl 2LP (including a limited run of white vinyl). The 2LP set will provide a vinyl -only bonus of four radio edits of “Extraordinary Love”, “Letting Go”, “Be Good To Yourself”, and “Staring Out the Window”. All vinyl editions will provide digital downloads of the album.

March 23 can’t get here soon enough!

Sweet UnknownErika Wennerstrom

01 – Twisted Highway
02 – Extraordinary Love
03 – Letting Go
04 – Time
05 – Be Good To Yourself
06 – Staring Out The Window
07 – Good To Be Alone
08 – Like A Bird
09 – Gravity

The Long Wait For New Music

Seemingly, three years (or more) is the new wait period between new albums by artists these days. Gone are the fruitful six-eight month turn around in albums by many bands and artists that we considered great (and still do). (Inspiration must not come in cloudbursts anymore!) Today, I was thinking about new music from artists that we haven’t heard from in quite some time. One of them is First Aid Kit.

Now, know that I’m not knocking a band for their extended wait periods. Rather, I just like new music from bands that I love. And I hate waiting three to four  LONG years for something new. Even so, I’m usually rewarded with a classically great album when they do come out. But that wait!

First Aid Kit released their last album, Stay Gold, on June 10, 2014. We’re at the three year mark. Amazingly, they have toured that album successfully for the duration. They’re currently on a tour in Sweden, England, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, and an October taping in Austin, TX for Austin City Limits. And then there’s Heartless Bastards, who hasn’t released an album since their June 16, 2015 set, Restless Ones. And it was three years from their 2012 Arrow release. To be fair, Erika Wennerstrom has a solo set coming soon. So, that helps.

Honestly, I’m just bitching because time frames have changed dramatically since I was younger. There’s no longer an industry need to push new music into our hearts on a fast track. But unfortunately, too many bands disappear without a trace because of the long waits.


New Heartless Bastards Album, Restless Ones, Scheduled For June

Heartless Bastards Restless OnesLast year, Heartless Bastards announced that they were entering a studio to create their next album. Of course, being a hard-core Heartless Bastards fan, news of this gets me primed for classic Heartless Bastards music.

Today, the announcement that all fans of the band were waiting for is now here. So, here’s your good news:

On June 15 (UK), June 16 (US), Partisan Records will release Restless Ones, the fifth studio album from Erika Wennerstrom and the band. Their last album was 2012’s Arrow. Here’s a little info from Partisan Records’ website on the recording of the new album:

“The sessions were marked by Heartless Bastards’ openness to the unfamiliar, allowing previously untapped influences – from The Byrds and Syd Barrett to the Faces and the Flaming Lips – to take root in their own distinctive blues-powered rock ‘n’ roll. “Wind Up Bird” is given texture and psychedelic lift via a visit from keyboardist John Baggott (Robert Plant’s Sensational Space Shifters, Portishead, Massive Attack), while the album-closing “Tristessa” was born of Wennerstrom’s home experiments with guitar loops but then grown by the band into a deeply devotional drone.

“We started with sketches and ideas of directions,” Ebaugh says, “but allowed the process of discovery to guide the finalization. It allowed us to think about the songs more globally and really flesh them out.”

“There were some happy accidents,” Colvin says. “Things that were completely organic, that could’ve only happened in that moment. Things are still shifting, nothing’s set in stone.”

Where some tracks were built from the ground up, others were completely upended. First recorded for the soundtrack to 2013’s acclaimed Winter In The Blood, “Hi-Line” was broken down and retooled from front porch folk to Fleetwood Mac-inspired country pop unlike anything in Heartless Bastards’ prior canon.

“‘Eastern Wind’ provided a bit of a road map for the record,” she says. “It’s a song of wanderlust. Writing words is always a real challenge for me, so I end up taking off in my car and roaming around by myself looking for inspiration. I think in doing that I’m taking myself out of my comfort zone. I turn my world upside down over and over and start anew.”

Further insight came from such literary touchstones as Haruki Murakami (“Wind Up Bird”), Jack Kerouac (“Tristessa”), and the late photojournalist/artist/activist Dan Eldon, whose Be Here Now philosophy is at the very heart of RESTLESS ONES.

“I love the idea of ‘The Journey Is The Destination,’” she says, referencing Eldon’s most famous work. “Not looking too far ahead and really focusing on the present. I’ve tended to look so forward that I forget to stop and smell the roses. The process of working towards the things you want in your life is more important than the goal itself.”

“As always, Erika’s lyrical honesty informs the behavior of the whole project,” says Ebaugh. “There comes a time in an artist’s trajectory when you realize that your entire life experience is expressed through the work, so you better be able to relax and let the work reflect the experience that is yours.”

RESTLESS ONES was finished in the fall with two mixing sessions at Congleton’s Elmwood Recording in Dallas. Heartless Bastards’ next challenge is bringing the album’s studio-crafted songs to the stage. “It’ll be fun to chuck it all at the wall and let the collective experience of band/audience dictate the conversation of the music,” Ebaugh says. “That’s the mission ultimately: rock ‘n’ roll communion.”

Visit this website for previews of Restless Ones.

Heartless Bastards Promo