Ha Ha Tonka Lessons
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"The music is lively and joyous, as rich as anything the band has produced before…In a just world, Lessons would be the one that makes the band a household name…I hear hints of classic 1970s FM rock in these songs, along with the complex roots-rock found on Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." -- PopMatters
"Ha Ha Tonka have always been a rugged and earnest underdog band with enough top-shelf songs steeped in red-blooded American life and roaring four-part harmonies to endure. They have already filled three acclaimed, near-flawless albums to the brim with barrages of powerful harmonies and scruffy immediacy. However, the jump they have made from their fantastic 2011 album, Death of a Decade (one of my essential albums of the last several years), to Lessons is altogether breathtaking...The result is nearly akin to The White Album for the current Americana zeitgeist." --No Depression
"It could very well be their best." --The Huffington Post
“At once gritty and delicate, owing as much to Paul Simon as Big Star; shaped by the sound of gospel as much as garage rock.” – WNYC
"These genuinely nice, brilliantly rootsy boys from The Ozarks have produced some of the best, most genre defying rock & roll we've ever heard…their live show is energetic, enchanting, and almost sure to cause girl fights in the audience…" – The Ruckus
"No American rock band has a better vocal blend." – Columbia Daily Tribune
“Stripped-down, rustic instrumentation to provide the bedding for an immersive listening experience” – Paste Magazine
“Southern rock meets The Cure.” – My Old Kentucky Blog
As the title implies, the inspiration behind Lessons stems from life’s biggest ones. Motivated by late illustrator and renowned children’s author Maurice Sendak’s musings on the creative process and what it means to be an artist (listen to this remarkable interview with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air HERE), the band captured this message and the fragile, oft-irrational comedy of life in sonic form. Produced by Dan Molad (Lucius) and The Ryantist, the notion of life’s immediacy is kept firmly at the forefront of Lessons. The band toys with the theme of living beyond a normal lifetime- the concept of reliving and rewriting our lives, and the lessons we can all learn along the way.
Sonically, Lessons marks a departure from Ha Ha Tonka’s more stripped down style to one that is filled with lush instrumentation. When recording the album, HHT kept that notion of immediacy in mind. The producers would oftentimes hit record in the control room and come join the band in the studio. They'd pick up something and play along and it might not be for hours until they got "the take." It was in this manner, that several of the tracks were recorded full band in one single take. Instead of adding pressure, it released it and seemed to foster a carefree and extremely creative environment. Ha Ha Tonka were simply playing in the moment.
The first single “Colorful Kids” is both bright and melancholy, the upbeat melodies belie its darker subject matter. “Rewrite Our Lives” is an energetic cut containing a runaway chorus and rolling percussion. “Arabella,” meanwhile, is an initially more downtempo piece with a vulnerable hesitance that gradually builds to a stomping refrain. The title track is a bittersweet cut filled with buzzy, distorted electric guitar that perhaps carries the message of the album truest to form.