A slow-burning anthem, taking Wennerstrom’s blues belting into mystic realms
Why You Should Care:
For 14 years, Erika Wennerstrom has led Cincinnati-via-Austin’s Heartless Bastards, an unabashedly earnest and gritty garage rock outfit spotlighting her rough-hewn, soaring vocals. At times evocative of an imaginary indie-rock Melissa Etheridge, or the second coming of Lone Justice’s Maria McKee, Wennerstrom was the distinguishing factor in a pleasing, but not always distinctive, ensemble.
For her first solo album, Sweet Unknown — Heartless Bastards haven’t broken up; they’re just on hiatus — Wennerstrom stretches herself in some unexpected ways, spotlighted by the nearly seven-minute long intro single “Extraordinary Love.” Behind a tangled electric guitar solo, Wennerstrom sings of searching for romantic and spiritual fulfillment. She employs every metaphor for a spiritual journey you can imagine: endless roads, mountaintops, native potions — before her inchoate yearning spirals into another guitar solo and an extended closing wordless chorus stretching out the final two minutes. “Extraordinary Love” is an unlikely merger of heavy blues and space rock that would’ve been somewhat out of character for the Heartless Bastards, so it makes sense that it’s presented as a solo project, and a new facet of Wennerstrom’s musical life.