Release Date: Oct 20, 2009
Record label: Anti
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
A hauntingly gorgeous contradiction in terms On his first solo effort, the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman continues his enthusiastic experiments with strange sound combinations. He’s pensive these days—mellow and introverted—and his self-questioning lyrics are matched with a fittingly eerie sound. The album is well conceived with articulate themes running throughout, as when Ounsworth laments the fall of New Orleans in “Holy, Holy, Holy Moses” and then later channels the city’s brass-laden funeral marches into the dirt-smudged “Idiots in the Rain.” Ounsworth’s resounding use of strings, horns, piano and percussion appears and disappears at unexpected moments with beautifully unsettling results.
Refracted through rock mythology, the first chapter of Alec Ounsworth's story plays out in one of two stock ways. The first: Wanting nothing to do with the online hype typhoon attending Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's first album, he kills the band with a Difficult Second Album, 2007's Some Loud Thunder. The second, equally familiar way to frame the narrative comes from Ounsworth himself: "If I want to do something with a particular group of people, I will.
The ripples from [a]Clap Your Hands Say Yeah[/a]’s stonking 2005 self-titled debut album have long since lapped against the indie pool’s edge, and it’s fair to say the Brooklyn troupe are displaying the advanced stages of ‘Spinto Band Syndrome’. You know: skinny college-goon types launch student union-slaying semi-breakthrough album over the Atlantic then follow-up with a less spectacular effort. The previously confident strides stick in the gloop of mediocrity, sinking until eventually, when the nostrils finally plop under, there are barely enough people interested to hear their final exhalation of relevance.
Mo Beauty is Alec Ounsworth’s second solo album this year (and first for a label). They're his first works since he began a (seemingly) purposeful mission to overspend the goodwill he had accrued after his band, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, became one of the first bands to break big via the Internet in the modern era (a.k.a. 2005). First was the (I suspect) terrible-on-purpose sophomore album, Some Loud Thunder, then a few years of radio silence amidst talks of possible band break-ups.
If you’re a bit confused by all the Alec Ounsworth news floating around, here it is straight: the leader of the on-hiatus Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is releasing two records, under different names, in the space of a month or so—one as Alec Ounsworth, and one under the moniker Flashy Python, which has been self-released on his website. I’m not sure how his record company feels about this, vis-à-vis cannibalization of the market, etc., especially because Ounsworth’s distinctive voice diminishes many of the musical differences. Plus, Flashy Python includes members of the Walkmen, Man Man, and Dr.