The Band of Heathens celebrates a decade together this year, and their eighth record Duende makes that clear. The Austin fivesome are at their tightest and most melodic with Duende, which translates to passion, spirit or a heightened sense of expression. The album is aptly titled, as it’s brimming with a vibrant, infectious energy that’ll make new and longtime listeners take notice. While Band of Heathens had always been on the radar, with Duende, they’re coming out swinging with a sound that is beaming and confident.
The songs on Duende have a polish that can only come from an incredibly tight unit. Aside from one truly twangy tune, “Sugar Queen”, this record has a throwback classic southern pop rock sound that suits the Band of Heathens’ soft, gentle harmonies. Duende has a shimmery, 1970s beauty. You can hear hints of the Beatles and even the Eagles, but it feels modern and fresh. Even when they edge toward a sultrier, more soulful sound, like “Daddy Longlegs”, there’s a retro quality that still reads as authentic.
An ode to marijuana, “Green Grass of California” has an easy, beachy harmony that flows cool and smooth. And “Cracking the Code” follows suit with a dreamy acoustic guitar melody and sun-drenched vocals. “Last Minute Man” listens like an old-timey, foot-stompin’ folk song, and “Keys to the Kingdom” is a gorgeous, heartbreaking story of a girl who never quite gets it right in life.
“Deep is Love” boasts the album’s most undeniable earworm, while lead single and album standout “Trouble Came Early” is Duende’s most rollicking moment. A true rock and roll drinking tune that will inspire serious booty shaking, it is a blast best enjoyed with a glass.