Tuesday, 21 June 2011

REVIEW: Ha Ha Tonka - Death of a Decade

Hello Ha Ha Tonka, haven't I seen you hanging around?

Here we have one of those bands you feel as though you've heard but, in reality, have never come across a single note. For me, at least, but we all have a few of them. I've seen tour ads and possibly the odd feature, from whence an image of some kind of indie-pop identity sprang forth in my mind. 

A case of mistaken identity, to be sure, as Ha Ha Tonka jam out rootsy, mid-Western rock with a dry desert through breeze. 

Setting off with 'Usual Suspects', the closest we come to any pop similarities is the immediately memorable chorus, which is still more Tom Petty than Tom Lowe, if we're seeking out stretched comparisons. 

MP3: Ha Ha Tonka - Usual Suspects
Taken from new album 'Death of a Decade', out now 

 Buy it at Insound!

In fact, the prevailing atmosphere created by Brian Roberts and crew is the polar opposite of manufactured, soulless pop. Here we have the depth of experience and the grit of life building an honest, emotional connection to the listener. Nothing feels contrived, everything feels lived, not least the agrarian ethic of 'Lonely Fortunes' and its touching sentiment: "But we're never gonna have much / Myself, I take such as a compliment."

Dig further and it's easy to find such memorable moments, as they're scattered like diamonds on a dirt road in the desert. The sun-baked reflection of 'Dead Man's Hand' needles at the mind, whilst the upbeat affirmation of 'Problem Solver' offers a more toe tapping take on the melancholy moments that surround it.

'Death of a Decade' is one of those neat musical finds that far surpasses expectation - albeit a confused expectation in my case - and delivers an album with consistency and craft. It flows well, varies the mood to great effect, and draws us in to the world it has created. There's a depth that draws in further listens and connects truly with the listener, even one far from the dusty country that so inspires it.
Much as a bounding, shiny indie pop release would be suitable for the summoning of the impending sunshine months, Ha Ha Tonka's material is a welcome substitution. Its reflections on a simpler life and the connections we forge with others settle just as satisfactorily as its irresistible melodies and enduring choruses. Highly recommended.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Please Please Please, Let Me Get What I Want: New Dinosaur Feathers

Emerging with the exquisite timing of a Broadway veteran, Brooklyn purveyors of shining tropical pop Dinosaur Feathers returned to action with a new single and tour dates this week. Just as the heat wave hit NYC, so did this upbeat summer ditty...

MP3: Dinosaur Feathers - Please, Please George

Replete with the bounding rhythm section and floating vocals we've come to expect from the band, this one succeeds in providing a natural follow on to last year's full length, 'Fantasy Memorial', as well as whetting the appetite for the upcoming live dates. Though I caught the announcement a day too late, you may have more luck and catch the chaps rolling through a North American field or tavern near you during the warmer months.  

After I saw Dinosaur Feathers on Pier 54 last year, I spent much of an August road trip to Florida and back driving to their relentlessly enthusiastic  sunshine-friendly tunes. Make some time to catch them yourself and experience the aural equivalent of a fruity ice lolly in 100 degree plus temperatures. 


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Stream Away: Albums of the Moment

We're ploughing headlong into the summer release rush just now, meaning there are many splendid albums vying for your ear time. How to choose what makes it onto your iPod/phone/retro Walkmen knock off player...??


There are more and more sites committing themselves to pre-release album streams, meaning those of us that still dole out our hard-earned on recorded music can easily preview our purchases, without all that download/delete palaver. 

You still need to know where to go, though, so here are some of the sites and songs of the moment, at least according to this rambling, restless Briton:

Spinner by AOL

Pages and pages of full new releases up to, err, spin here. Not least amongst them the quirky new Battles number and the deliciously languid, summery Dawes album, both worth a good dig into on your next listening foray.

Firm favourite Bandcamp obviously has many full freebies streaming at any given moment...I'm currently making the most of the intricate, distant delights of Forks Of Ivy's 'Foxfeel' release. You can too

Always a mixture of free music downloads and full album streams over at Spin, where I'm currently focused on the new Rosebuds effort (courtesy of a heads up from good music matey sPikeR!). It's a beautiful indie-pop with a shining exterior yet chronicling the break up of the divorced couple behind the band's music. Definitely one of depth and character to dig into, before you explore the rest of the site for free tunes.

How about your good selves? Where are you finding the exciting new tunes before you commit them to your digital lockers?

Friday, 3 June 2011

Standing At Bleecker & Broadway...

...looking for something to do"? 

Whether or not the minor obscurity of that New Pornographers lyric escapes you, the question is a valid one. At least it could be tomorrow night, when I would encourage you to check out friend of H-T-A, Lucas Kane Hall, as he appears with new material at New York's Bitter End venue, on Bleecker Street (clearly).

Our resident Aussie ace will be performing with A.J. Khaw on the keys, adding an extra element of class to Hall's already heartfelt, touching songs about life and love. Add to that the fact that he's unveiling a new theme - 'We Are All Gods' - that will run through his upcoming releases, and we have a recipe for something of a special show.

Shenanigans kick off at 6:30pm, so arrive early, sink a Brooklyn bevvie or three, and relax into a night of songwriting revelry. Check out some updates and new song demos via the Facebook event page here.