Published Mar 08, 2017Heart-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. Shimmery background countermelodies of organ and mandolin bring a slightly psychedelic, dreamy sense of indie rock to an album that alternately evokes both '80s Los Angeles and '90s Scotland. And a song like "Land Beyond," with its thumping piano and funky bass line, could be a long lost Muppet Show number by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. "O happy summer land of bliss!" exclaims singer Brian Roberts in the coda, but is it in ecstatic anticipation, or wistful longing? It's all in the angle of view.
In a fitting ending, the album's last song, "Telluride," is a celebration of the kind of vision that can come from an elevated perspective. "I climbed so high to clear my mind." Roberts sings, and it sounds like the struggle was worth it. (Bloodshot)