After a decade of playing all over the world, Ha Ha Tonka has beautifully perfected their incredible blend of Americana, indie, folk, and rock with the release of their latest album, Lessons, in September. The sound is uniquely and unequivocally Tonka and fits in heroically with the progression seen in their last three albums. This week they will be headed to Europe once again to sell out shows from England all the way to the Netherlands. The tour, to kickoff in Suffolk on May 9th, is anticipated to be their most successful to date (check tour dates here).
Ha Ha Tonka is made up of the same founding members that started it all ten years ago: Brett Anderson, Lennon Bone, Lucas Long, and Brian Roberts. Their first album, Buckle in the Bible Belt was released in 2007 and was dripping with a softer folk-rock vibe. Their next two albums Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South and Death of a Decade (2009 and 2011, respectively) both experimented with more of an indie edge. All three albums were filled with dark passionate lyrics juxtaposed against the fast strum of folk strings pushed forward by a rousing and intricate rock beat. Lessons builds on that foundation, but the production is far more intense.
We went into the album without a specific sound we wanted. Just went into the studio and stayed up all night and played and wrote and recorded. –Lucas Long
Every song is an unexpected journey. The first song on the album, Dead to the World, is a perfect example. It begins with a simple banjo lick that builds into a full string western-soundtrack-sounding movement that cuts out right before the first verse. The chorus drops back even further cutting everything save drums and vocals. Like every song on the album, the song is thickly marinated with mouth-watering harmonies that will pull you in, wrap you up, and caress your ears.
With my eyes closed so tight to all the possibilities I’m surprised I could see/ Oh that I was dead to the world around to me/ No I don’t want to be dead, dead to the world around me
Other Examiner favorites include Arabella and Cold Forgiver. Arabella begins with a haunting verse that creeps into a pre-chorus that resolves into an arresting heavy bass line. Cold Forgiver is a great example of a song that came to life in the studio with producer Dan Molad (Lucius). The soft sway of the song is spiced with natural sounds, undoubtedly inspired by the breathtaking landscape of the band’s home state of Missouri.
Cold water, cold river, cold shoulder, cold forgiver/ when it’s gone, its gone forever/ when it’s gone, its gone forever.
Every single song on this 15-track album has a unique personality and message that stays true to the Tonka sound yet bleeds a fresh perspective. Though the band has always done well in the European market, there is little doubt that this album will push them higher than ever before.
Live in the states and want to see them live? Don’t worry, Ha Ha Tonka will be coming back to us for another US tour after their last show in Germany starting in Kansas City on June 20th. Check their website (HaHaTonkaMusic.com) for new tour dates. To stay updated day-to-day on their adventures, become a fan on Facebook (Facebook.com/HaHaTonka) or follow them on twitter (Twitter.com/HaHaTonka).