Confident and cohesive, the record is a dark treaty on the violent and self destructive tendencies of society at large. Investigating morality and individual responsibility, Ha Ha Tonka take listeners on a complex tour of the South through lynchings and mob violence, sacrifice and reconciliation. On the two trails of life, how does your history affect your present, and how much can you change the future?
It's dense subject matter for any artist, but delivered beautifully on this record by Springfield, MO native sons. This record, driven but contemplative, mysterious but clean, delicate but much more guitar-heavy than the previous effort, is the next logical step in their musical journey and an amazing step, we think. From the junebug-like humming guitars that open the record on "Pendergast Machine", to the tent-revival spiritual a capellas complementing several tracks, this record is a product of whence it came. From religion ("The Holy Ghost, Brother. It's a weapon. I'm walking on the Devil's backbone" on the eponymously named "Walking on the Devil's Backbone,") to retribution ("We know that history will be the harshest judge and we are all condemned", on "What Shepherds of These Hills"), Ha Ha Tonka tackle bleak material with a sense of lightness and perseverance, and a lyrical sensibility that s sharp as a tack.
Novel Sounds is violent, literate, unapologetic Southern rock: With its angelic organ and snarling guitars. The Outpouring conjures the Allmans. Hold My Feet to the Fire drops gospel harmonies over a boogie-woogie backbeat, and the fingerpickedClose Every Valve to Your Bleeding Heart builds from tender to raging without a false note. The Kings of Leon comparisons will be legion. --Spin
Ha Ha Tonka is truly one of the best young bands in America. --PopMatters.com