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.

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