The imposing cries of classic drum fills, the wail of simple garage-grunge harmonies, and the thrash of vibrato-metal guitars, give the first track on Restless Ones the unquestionable privilege of an introductory position.
But while the intro song, "Wind Up Bird" [Ed. Note: A Heartless Bastards album is the last place I'd expect a Haruki Murakami reference to pop-up in modern pop-rock] undeniably captures the intersectionality between an outgoing classic rock, country blues, and metallic alternative, most other jams on Heartless Bastards' latest studio album, Restless Ones, fall into a category I like to call 'the star-spangled banner alliance. One can't help but associate most of the jams on the album to a group-swaying feel-good, anthem-resembling homage of some sort. This doesn't, of course, presuppose that the toe-tapping tunes aren't musically rich. It only alludes to a realization that you can probably expect what sort of linear progression will advance in terms of the instrumental and melodic dynamics in any one track. Okay, yes, we should all come to terms that as a country-rock garage band, it's less likely that the idiosyncratic likes of an Alt-J or of a Florence Welch will be featuring on a Heartless Bastards' song any time soon. But it is curious to realize that no matter which of their songs is blaring through the airwaves, you'll almost certainly feel the need to have a quintessential woodland campfire blazing within 7 feet of you... deep in the dense woods of Wichita, Kansas, Restless Ones is whistling through the camp sight of some unruffled hikers in their early 30s.
As confidently red, white, and blue as the album may be, Heartless Bastards have managed to gracefully weave in a few pieces of compositional complexity that sonically deviate from the others. For cosmic instance, the song "Tristessa" will send you on a synthetic journey to a mystical land where individuals communicate via telekinetic pulses rather than decipherable utterances. The track features almost whale-like echolalia constructed from exaggeratedly legato synth chords with the accompaniment of some weirdly comforting barbaric groans by lead singer, Erika Wennerstrom. But while some past Heartless Bastards albums maintain a colorfully dynamic pallet like Arrows and even The Mountain for that matter (rife with fearless tremolo guitar riffs, tropical percussions, and varied tempo changes), Reckless Ones shies away from these sort of orchestral fluctuations for the most part. Because of this, the album is a bit situational with a predetermined mood-setting tone that can boldly, yet perhaps inadvertently, subdue the listener to a sluggish hypnotized posture. It would be irresponsible though, to ignore some of the nuanced deviations embedded within the album, most notably prominent in the background earth-toned sound effects, and in the subtle yet powerful psychedelic add-ins in songs like "The Fool" and "Into The Light." Heartless Bastards make it clear that they're unashamed of taking the sleepier route to their already humbled bluesy country rock. Rest assured (pun totally intended), Restless Ones is a solid summer album worth taking a good clean listen to.