There’s a certain wisdom that exists in the hills of the Ozarks. It’s a wisdom that’s found on Ha Ha Tonka's new full-length LP, Death of a Decade.
Recorded in a 200 year old barn in scenic New Paltz, NY with producer Kevin McMahon (Titus Andronicus, The Walkmen), Death of a Decade began as a stripped down record, rich with warm tones. "We wanted to leave in all the imperfections of the barn such as the chairs squeaking and the boards creaking", explains lead singer Brian Roberts. The files were shipped to hAUs Studio in Kansas City, MO where The Ryantist mixed and manipulated synthetic sonic threads into this organic tapestry. Death of a Decade is where authentic meets synthetic, acoustic meets electronic, and tradition meets innovation.
Thematically, Death of a Decade is less “story-based” than Ha Ha Tonka's previous work (which pulled heavily from Missouri history and folklore for its lyrics), with the band now focusing on the transition into manhood—something that doesn’t automatically come once you pass a certain age: “I realize that youth is wasted on the young,” Roberts sings on “Westward Bound,” “Oh, I know that now my wasting days are done.”
However, Roberts says, Death of a Decade is not meant to be a requiem for lost youth, but rather an embrace of the notion that the passage of time is better than the alternative. There you have it again: the wisdom of the Ozarks.
Even if the album’s songs aren’t specifically of the Ozarks, the sound is—still present is the traditional instrumentation (listen to guitarist Brett Anderson’s arpeggio mandolin lines on “Usual Suspects” and “Made Example Of”), with bassist Lucas Long and drummer Lennon Bone rounding out the rhythm section to stampeding affect. Still present are the spine-tingling four-part gospel harmonies, a signature sound that sets Ha Ha Tonka apart: sitting at the crossroads of Americana and indie, where Alabama meets Arcade Fire - shakes their hand and takes them out for a drink.