Heart-Shaped Mountain is all about perspective. From the lowest lows of album opener "Race to the Bottom" to the dizzying perch of "Height of My Fears," the Missouri-bred fellows of Ha Ha Tonka are exploring the peaks and valleys of ambition and maturity. When they sing of loneliness, it's the bitter loneliness of seeing one's peers happily shacked up and breeding; when the songs are optimistic, it's the hard-won optimism of one who's known great fear and disappointment, and keeps trying anyway.
Ha Ha Tonka's sound is country rock, with experimental flourishes borrowed from whatever they fancy.
"Heart-Shaped Mountain is our love album," Ha Ha Tonka declare in the liner notes to their fifth long-player. And sure enough, a spin of the album reveals a lot of these songs deal with relationships in one way or another. That's not to say that this is the Ha Ha Tonka makeout album you've been dreaming of, or that these ten songs are full of cheery celebrations of the joy of romance.
Ha Ha Tonka, formed in 2004, enters their teen years as a band with Heart-Shaped Mountain, and on the evidence of its ten songs, the band's adolescence will be a pretty clean affair, free from most of the storms usually associated with the age. But then, teenaged in band years is more a middle-age kind of passage, the rock and roll lifestyle being sped up as it is. And Ha Ha Tonka's arrival in its thirteenth year does indeed find its members confronting the traps and trappings of maturity: marriage, parenthood, and revised expectations.