Review by Blake Britton
Donora has abandoned their hard-hitting and danceable pop for happy-go-lucky synth tunes and the result is quite possibly the band’s most stale attempt in their discography. As a very open listener of 2011’s Boyfriends, Girlfriends, I can say with full confidence that Ha Ha Heart’s trade-in for a more accessible sound fails to do anyone any favors and comes nowhere near doing the band’s songwriting talents any justice. It’s not even necessary to dig too deep into this new record to feel a dramatic departure from hard hitting tunes like “Boom Boom” and “Mancini’s Dance Hall.” And the further I sifted through this new release the more I realized that I could rarely rely on this album for something memorable or lyrically or melodically. I used to get excited about hearing something new from Donora and went into this record with incredibly high expectations that, sadly, were nowhere near being met.
If there’s anything good to say about this record it’s the fact that the production quality has been upped to some extent but the messy etherealness of their early material was made the band so interesting and listenable in the first place. The production may be clearer, but the result is synthetic, plastic feeling music that fails to attain any appeal for more than a minute a song. Ha Ha Heart fails to sound like a Donora record and feels more like a bad attempt at making a popped-up Submarines LP.
Despite all of this, there are still moments that are incredibly enjoyable on this record. The chorus on “I Might Have a Worry” is incredibly killer and the strings on the song “Memory” are great despite the tune losing its appeal about halfway through. And I absolutely love Casey Hanner’s voice. She has an incredible amount of vocal talent. I think the album highlight is actually the closer on this record, “We Live the Rest.” The drum beat and vocal melodies are definitely more reminiscent of the band’s earlier work and it brings the album to a surprisingly decent close.
While I don’t see myself revisiting this record anytime soon, it did get me in the mood to go back and listen to some of their earlier cuts. My biggest hope is that the sounds on this record were just a one-time thing and the band gets back to the poppy rawness of their previous efforts.
Listen to "We Live The Rest"