Release Date: Sep 20, 2011
Record label: V2 Records / Cooperative
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
The low-fi haze and ramshackle post-punk of the first two records by these self-made indie heroes are mostly gone on album three, replaced by confident songs festooned with shiny hooks. That's not to say that an alienated dance rocker like "Ketamine and Ecstasy" is going to soundtrack iCarly. But it could. The epic closer "Adam's Plane," with its ambient noise and piano hammering, bridges the old and new approaches, showing a band that can scale up without losing its underdog spirit.
In Heaven positively glows. From the opening vibraphone strikes of “Daniel” onward, Twin Sister’s debut full-length carries with it a magnificent incandescence, with Andrea Estella’s addicting voice and Eric Cardona’s more earthbound one serving as its flighty anchors. Acting on the promise of their Vampires with Dreaming Kids and Color Your Life EPs and then some, the album serves as an unassumingly magnificent vehicle to show off the band’s impressive command on songwriting.
Four years since Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s dense but unassuming Some Loud Thunder, Hysterical feels like it’s gestated so much longer. This is measured, adult music—The Wrens with a stricter work ethic—yet the centerpiece “Into Your Alien Arms” bears a wonderful sense of levity (thanks, in part, to Joe Congleton’s translucent production). “In a Motel” lays on the strings like mayonnaise on a cookie, but to hear Alec Ounsworth’s voice this confident is as much a fragrant relief as “Maniac”’s weird, chattering asides.
There’s this fellow I talk to occasionally on the internets for whose opinion I have a good deal of respect. He believes the first Clap Your Hands Say Yeah album to be the greatest American guitar band recording of the last decade. I just can’t see it. I mean, it’s okay and that; it’s always nice to hear a band that doesn’t overtly remind you of some other band, even if they are a tad monochrome and joyless, and at its best (‘By The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth’, ‘In Our Home On Ice’) it even approaches fun.
It’s been almost five years since Clap Your Hands Say Yeah cut a record, and that was two years after the five Brooklynites made waves across the indie scene for pulling in six figures off their self-produced debut album that they distributed all by their lonesome. Now a tale of indie folklore, the quintet have been raised up on a pedestal as large as the Sears Tower for their unorthodox method of achieving success. In the dawn of iTunes and BitTorrent downloading, CYHSY didn’t even use the In Rainbows technique of online offering, but rather sold actual physical copies at shows and on independent music websites.
Standing on top of a mountain of hype and praise after the success of their first two self-released albums, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah did what few bands in their position would do: they took a break. Rather than striking while the iron was hot and getting another release into the impatient little hands of their fan base, they walked away to pursue other projects, allowing their members to follow all of their other ideas wherever they might take them for a couple years before eventually coming back together on their third album, Hysterical. With a generally brighter and more focused approach, the band returns to the formula of their debut, delivering an album of solid indie rock that focuses more on songwriting than experimentation.
It is nearly impossible to think, talk and especially write about Clap Your Hands Yeah without referencing the band’s fantastic, albeit drastically overhyped, 2005 debut. Both the music itself and the record label-less, internet-driven buzz have become something of indie rock folklore. The Philly-Brooklyn rockers essentially redefined what an indie band could be in the modern age with their self-titled, achieving a level of success that they themselves certainly never expected, and—based on frontman Alec Ounsworth’s well-documented reclusiveness—probably didn’t even want in the first place.
If the world did a celebratory air punch to the news that Brooklyn’s CYHSY are back after a three-year break, it’d be understandable – their almost instructional name is how we all reacted to their first album. Having struggled to live up to the hype as one of the early blogosphere’s favourite bands during their transition to a second record, their third offering is more self-confident. Working with producer John Congleton – who’s crafted tracks by [b]Okkervil River[/b], [a]St Vincent[/a] and [a]The Mountain Goats[/a] – the band respond to rumours that they’re no more in the best way possible, with jumbled synthesisers and vibrating bass gently tied together with Alec Ounsworth’s crackling voice.
The majority of unsigned bands never have their failure to upend the music industry held against them, but... you already know the deal with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The excitement surrounding their 2005 self-titled debut and its DIY success was certainly warranted, but two years later, blogs were still grasping at straws for the sake of "firsties," bands still wanted to get signed, and CYHSY's wildly uneven follow-up Some Loud Thunder all but acknowledged its impending backlash as a given.
When a band forces themselves out of your consciousness as hard as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah did with their 2009 “indefinite hiatus,” it becomes difficult to remember why you found them compelling in the first place. The Brooklyn/Philadelphia quintet arrived with a statement on their manic and cartoonishly brilliant self-titled debut in 2005, only to falter on the polished sophomore follow-up Some Loud Thunder. It was disappointing to see a group with such raw momentum like CYHSY lose their full-powered steam.
Review Summary: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah begin to rust away“Same Mistake” almost had me believing again. The four-on-the-floor, hi-hat-happy beat, the fact that Alec Ounsworth no longer sounds like the bastardized child of David Byrne and the sound a junkyard cat makes in heat, the irresistible melody. It’s a great song, in the vein of “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” and “Is this Love,” songs that captured the offbeat quirkiness that originally endeared CYHSY to the early blogosphere.
Having previously attracted plaudits for their off-kilter, Talking Heads-esque pop, New York five-piece Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are aiming themselves squarely at the mainstream on this, their third album. Unfortunately, they've lost any modicum of individuality in the process, their spectrum of influences seemingly stretching only from the stadium indie of the Killers ("Same Mistake") via the Killers covering Pulp's "Common People" ("Into Your Alien Arms") to the keyboard-powered stadium indie of Keane ("Idiot"). It has its moments – the title track has a certain chutzpah – but a lack of killer hooks means there's precious little to get excited about here.
A blur of arpeggios, distortion and echo on the Brooklyn act’s third LP. Brad Barrett 2011. Searing synth strings. That's the overwhelming memory after listening to Hysterical a few times. It seems to swamp the entirety of the album, a sweeping hand of majesty. Apart from that, not a lot has ….
Following the reactionary fissure of 2007's Some Loud Thunder, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah went on an almost-five-year hiatus that appeared permanent in the wake of 2009's Alec Ounsworth New Orleans sojourn, Mo Beauty. Led by Ounsworth's blurry crow and polished by producer John Congleton, Hysterical comes as a surprise, the bedhead charm of the Brooklyn/Philly crew's 2005 debut having swelled into jubilant, wide-screen indie pop ("Same Mistake"). There are shades of the National's late-night moodiness ("Misspent Youth") and the triumph of Broken Social Scene's Forgiveness Rock Record ("Ketamine and Ecstasy").