Heartless Bastards’ sixth studio album and first new music in more than half a decade, A Beautiful Lifearrives via Sweet Unknown Records/Thirty Tigers on Friday, September 10; pre-orders are available now, including a limited edition hand-poured double LP and special merchandise available exclusively from the Sweet Unknown Records Official Store.
A Beautiful Life was heralded last month with the soulful new single, “How Low,” available now at all DSPs and streaming services; an official music video – directed by documentary filmmakers Sam Wainwright Douglas and David Hartstein – is streaming via YouTube. “How Low” was met by instant acclaim, with Rolling Stone declaring it to be “a satisfying summer song — with a deeper message in its lyrics,” further noting how the song’s companion video “juxtaposes the vacuous Instagram life with images of poverty, natural disaster, and ultimately acts of kindness.”
A Beautiful Life once again sees Heartless Bastards founder Erika Wennerstrom alchemizing her idealism into viscerally potent rock ‘n ‘roll. Co-produced by Wennerstrom and Kevin Ratterman (Strand Of Oaks, Jim James, White Reaper), the album – which follows 2015’s Restless Ones – finds the Austin, TX-based singer-songwriter backed by a powerhouse lineup comprising guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo (Okkervil River), drummer Greggory Clifford (White Denim), multi-instrumentalist Jesse Chandler (Mercury Rev, Midlake), keyboardist Bo Koster (My Morning Jacket), guitarist David Pulkingham (Patty Griffin), and longtime Heartless Bastards bassist Jesse Ebaugh.
Though Wennerstrom first considered releasing A Beautiful Life under her own name as the follow-up to her widely praised 2018 solo debut, Sweet Unknown, she ultimately came to view the new album as a continuation of the journey begun on Heartless Bastards’ milestone 2005 debut, Stairs and Elevators. Indeed, with its coalescence of so many eclectic touchstones – from French pop and Celtic folk to space rock, Disney scores, and post-punk – A Beautiful Life stands tall as Heartless Bastards’ most elaborately realized work to date. Songs such as the sprawling, psychedelic epic, “Photograph” and the rambling folk of “The River” (the latter featuring contributions from such singular musicians as Andrew Bird and Persian setar virtuoso Fared Shafinury) channel Wennerstrom’s nuanced observations into glorious music that incites contemplation, catharsis, and a joyful sense of defiance.