Ha Ha Tonka
Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South
Reared in the heartland — Springfield, Missouri, to be precise — Ha Ha Tonka aptly reflects its down-home sensibilities on its second album. With an elegiac approach that spirals between forlorn and ferocious, the band brings to mind the Kings of Leon in its blend of ragged determination and unwavering insurgence. "Hold My Feet to the Fire," "A Siege of Sorts," and "Giant Strides" sonically reflect their weary titles with a sense of drama and desire. The band's sound is high and lonesome, clearly capable of rousing the masses while also evoking despair, an uncertain combination that distinguishes Ha Ha Tonka from the competition.
For a Second Time
There are actually two interpretations for the title of this new disc by the alt-country supergroup of sorts that calls itself Daddy. On the one hand, it's the second time Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack have joined forces following their initial association as the Bis-quits more than a decade ago. On the other, this is the band's sophomore set following its low-key debut, At the Women's Club. Truth be told, it feels like a new beginning. The musical approach is rustic, recalling hints of Dylan, the Band, Clapton, the Allman Brothers, and Little Feat. It gives songs such as "From Here to Nowhere," "Early to Bed, Early to Rise," and "The Ballad of Martin Luther King" a burnished sound that feels unerringly familiar even at first listen. Give this Daddy the respect it deserves.
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The Low Anthem
Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
Even though it's only the group's second album, here the Rhode Island band the Low Anthem tackles an ambitious concept: the exploits of anthropologist Charles Darwin. Although that wouldn't ordinarily seem like an ideal source for a compelling score, the band renders it convincingly, with a blend of hushed, reverential ballads and jaunty folk interludes. "Charlie Darwin" and "To Ohio" are the most indelible, but the whole disc holds together exceedingly well, crafted in a veil of extraordinary elegance and heartbreaking allure. Sure to be considered one of the year's major breakouts, this is already one for the ages.