Ha Ha Tonka – Lessons [album review]

by Woody on September 23, 2013

HHT_Lessons_promo

A few years back I was playing Ha Ha Tonka for some friends and they commented that they sounded like Kings of Leon. I immediately snapped back, “Take that back, they’re friends of mine. These guys aren’t vapid assclowns; more worried about their look than their music. There is a bond with these four guys that is tough to replicate anywhere. Whereas everything about Kings of Leon is fake, Ha Ha Tonka is genuine.”

The bond that Luke, Brian, Brett and Lennon have with each other and their fans has always been one of the most endearing thing about them. Its that bond and their genuine approach to music that has allowed them to try some new stuff on Lessons while holding on their roots from The Ozarks. As the first songs started to dribble out, I would admit I wasn’t really feeling it. As friend of HearYa, @ScottSounds commented on Twitter, “Hey Woody, I’ve really been looking forward to @hahatonka. It took few streams to start really digging it. Then WOW.” Agreed, it really didn’t hit me til I listened on some quality speakers.

The first part to really sink its teeth into me was Arabella leading into the title track, Lessons. The downtempo Arabella is really well-done and is my favorite song that Brett has sung lead on. It feels like something out of the 70s that’s been remastered. I love how Arabella fades out into the fuzzy guitar strums that opens Lessons. Brian takes over the vocal singing, “I can’t keep learning the same lessons over again” before the rest of the band joins in. In many regards, Lessons almost acts as an outro to Arabella with Brett showing off some sweet guitar work. For years, I have been begging these guys to uncork an 8 or 10 minute tune. This combo scratched that itch but leaves me wanting for future longer jams.

Rewrite Our Lives sounds like classic Ha Ha Tonka, if that term is even apt, and is one of the more up-tempo tracks filled with regret that you’ll hear. I love the earnestness in Brian’s voice on this track as he really nailed it here. Whereas the last two tracks on the album, Pied Pipers and Terrible Tomorrow, sound like they could have been written on their back porches in The Ozarks. On each the songs work in some lush instrumentation – including some strings on the latte – which is what from a band you’ve loved from the beginning; growth without forgetting your roots.

I am anxious to hear these tracks in a live setting, as should you. And when you do, go up and say hi to the boys. They are about as nice of four guys you’ll meet.

You can find our two sessions with Ha Ha Tonka here and here.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

Follow Ha Ha Tonka at @HaHaTonka

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

StephenBurke September 23, 2013 at 11:32 am

Love these guys. First saw them in Chicago in 2008 and I’ve been hooked ever since. Can’t wait to snag this album tomorrow! You nailed the review too, somehow they are progressing on each album while remaining true to their sound.

Kevin November 22, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I saw them at the Studio in Webster Hall in NYC a few weeks back. Left very impressed. They have a “big” sound, they certainly can be playing larger venues but also are earnest enough to connect with a smaller crowd. Really fun band and will check them out next time they are around.

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