Ha Ha Tonka is a difficult band to pin down. Hailing from rural southern Missouri, they use traditional Ozarkian instrumentation with sensational four-part vocal harmonies. The band's music has been described as southern rock, folk rock, bluegrass and indie, but none of these genres quite hit the nail on the head, as its sound is very unique. Think Kings of Leon with much sharper songwriting or Mumford & Sons with more authenticity.
Not surprisingly, the band's previous two albums received overwhelmingly positive reviews, leaving many wondering in which direction the quartet would go next. With Death of a Decade, Ha Ha Tonka expands on its past success while making some welcome tweaks.
Most noticeably, this album feels a tad less heavy lyrically than the band's past works, and ambitious songs like “Westward Bound” give the listener the sense that the band is exploring new territory in its musical career. Those familiar with the band’s discography will be delighted to hear that Brett Anderson’s mandolin is much more prominent throughout this album, whether it carries the lead melody as in the infectious “Usual Suspects” or provides background texture to compliment Brian Roberts' impressive vocals as in standout “No Great Harm.” Luke Long’s thumping bass chords and rich deep voice are as strong as ever, and Lennon Bone is sure to impress new listeners with his creative drumming.
As in the past, the band’s Ozarkian background permeates every aspect of their music in this album, which was recorded in a 200-year-old barn with Titus Andronicus producer Kevin McMahon. Death of a Decade is a truly impressive album without a skippable track. Ha Ha Tonka have carved out a niche for themselves in the music world with a sound that cannot be heard anywhere else, and any fan of folk, rock and indie will not be disappointed.
Ha Ha Tonka will perform April 30 at Mojo's.