Let’s face it: We’re all getting older. Even in the second it took you to read this, you’re one second closer to the inevitable end. It’s a fact, as much as it is a burden, that can be made a little lighter depending on how you view things: We’re either busy being born or busy dying, as Bob Dylan once said. You certainly can’t be both.
Missouri-based Ha Ha Tonka has been a band for over a decade now, and 10 years in rock years is more like 40 to us regular humans. They’ve gone through all the trappings of adulthood — marriage, birth, death — while realizing that none of these things are anything remotely similar to how you imagine them, coming out with the set of songs on their most recent release, Heart-Shaped Mountain. It’s on “Height of My Fears” where we realize that this mountain — cased in lush keys, their signature rich, rootsy harmonies, and powerful percussion — is not an easy one to climb. “Canyons carved out by rivers of tears,” sings Brian Roberts, “mountains rise up to the height of my fears.” Music sometimes makes us feel invincible, but not even the best melody can cheat death. Roberts feels this weight, as we all do, with insecurities and the unsettling reality of destiny pulling hard. But we can scale that mountain and face down what terrifies us most, or we can tumble down. Ha Ha Tonka shows us a way to keep climbing. Our feet may drag, the air may thin, and the future be nothing if not uncertain, but it’s always possible to keep being born, from our first breath to our last.