Fresh from touring on 2009′s coming-down-off-a-relationship record, The Mountain, Heartless Bastards frontlady Erika Wennerstrom took some time off, road tripping all over the country to spend time with friends and family and music that wasn’t her own. As it turns out, that idyllic late-2010 trip gave Wennerstrom a chance to reassess what was going on around her. It’s no wonder, then, that her band, now a quartet after the addition of Matt Nathan on guitar, sounds positively rejuvenated on Arrow, and is making the best music of its nearly 10-year existence.
Unsurprisingly, there’s talk of wide-open spaces, troubled minds, whiskey and change all over this record. But for as cohesive a collection as it is lyrically, the band switches up musical styles repeatedly. There’s an incendiary T. Rex homage (“Got to Have Rock and Roll”), a few frantic guitarvaganzas (“Simple Feeling”), some irresistible front porch Americana (“Skin and Bone”) and bar-band beer-chuggers (“Late in the Night”). When Wennerstrom finally croons, “I’m on my way home” on rewarding slow-burner, “Marathon,” there’s no question that she’s earned the break.