Erika Wennerstrom, the headstrong force behind Heartless Bastards, has paid her dues, and the dividends show — musically, if not otherwise. After toiling it out in Ohio, shuffling lineups and heading to Texas, Wennerstrom teamed up with Spoon drummer Jim Eno for Arrow
, one of the best straight-up rock & roll albums in a year with no competition from the Hold Steady or the Stooges. All of Wennerstrom's instincts and talents come into beautifully fuzzy focus: the way she caresses a long country vowel, the way her throat-burred falsetto rides the reverb, the way her band bursts into MC5 punk funk on a track like "Simple Feeling" and, above all else, the way the songs stick, like arrows in your unsuspecting heart.
Last Time: Heartless Bastards played the Firebird in February, just 24 hours into its first trek of the year. Any new-tour, new-release jitters should now be long gone.