15 Songs, 53 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Ha Ha Tonka occupies an interesting and loosely defined territory on the Americana map. Fans and critics frequently liken the group to Paul Simon for its literate, stylistically ambitious songs, which employ a grandly rhythmic approach far beyond the band’s roots in Springfield, Mo. (“Staring at the End of Our Lives” sounds like a lost song from Graceland.) The “Lessons” implied in the album’s title are literal. According to the band, the inspiration for this fourth album rests with the late illustrator and (in)famous children’s author Maurice Sendak. The band muses on the creative process and what it means to be an artist, with Sendak’s irreverent, joyous, cranky, and hilarious views of life included in the process. To better capture a world of wonder, the band opted for playful, orchestrated arrangements beyond its usual economical style, with the title track berating oneself for having to learn the same life lessons over and over. “Rewrite Our Lives,” with a jittery rhythm, meets a midlife crisis head-on. “Dead to the World” humorously acknowledges being too worn out to change.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Ha Ha Tonka occupies an interesting and loosely defined territory on the Americana map. Fans and critics frequently liken the group to Paul Simon for its literate, stylistically ambitious songs, which employ a grandly rhythmic approach far beyond the band’s roots in Springfield, Mo. (“Staring at the End of Our Lives” sounds like a lost song from Graceland.) The “Lessons” implied in the album’s title are literal. According to the band, the inspiration for this fourth album rests with the late illustrator and (in)famous children’s author Maurice Sendak. The band muses on the creative process and what it means to be an artist, with Sendak’s irreverent, joyous, cranky, and hilarious views of life included in the process. To better capture a world of wonder, the band opted for playful, orchestrated arrangements beyond its usual economical style, with the title track berating oneself for having to learn the same life lessons over and over. “Rewrite Our Lives,” with a jittery rhythm, meets a midlife crisis head-on. “Dead to the World” humorously acknowledges being too worn out to change.

TITLE TIME
4:22
4:11
4:35
0:32
4:14
5:07
4:14
1:02
3:47
3:43
3:15
4:13
4:04
3:12
2:33

About Ha Ha Tonka

Indie rock band Ha Ha Tonka were formed in 2004 in Springfield, Missouri, by Brian Roberts (singer/guitarist), Lucas Long (bass, vocals), Brett Anderson (keyboards, guitar, vocals), and Lennon Bone (drums, vocals). Their first album as Ha Ha Tonka, Buckle in the Bible Belt, was actually a re-release from a time when they were known as Amsterband. Under that moniker, they released their debut CD, Beatchen, and toured extensively. In 2006, they followed with a second self-released album, Buckle in the Bible Belt. The next year, the quartet signed to independent Chicago-based label Bloodshot Records and decided on a name change, calling themselves Ha Ha Tonka after a state park in the Ozark Mountains in southwestern Missouri. Bloodshot re-released Buckle in the Bible Belt on September 11, 2007, as Ha Ha Tonka were in the midst of a tour of the Midwest. Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South appeared in 2009, garnering a good deal of critical praise, and was followed by Death of a Decade, produced by Kevin McMahon and the Ryantist, in 2011. The impressive and lightly orchestrated Lessons appeared in the fall of 2013. Ha Ha Tonka returned in 2017 with their fifth LP, Heart-Shaped Mountain. By this time, Lennon Bone had left the group, and Ha Ha Tonka recruited a new drummer, Mike Reilly, formerly of Hoots & Hellmouth. The group also brought aboard multi-instrumentalist James Cleare, who'd previously worked with the Spring Standard. ~ William Ruhlmann & Neil Z. Yeung

  • ORIGIN
    Springfield, MO
  • GENRE
    Rock
  • FORMED
    2004

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