Release Date: Feb 12, 2021
Record label: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Stains leave their uneasy smear on the first two tracks of New Fragility, the new record by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Peppy opening number Hesitating Nation is rife with narrative imperfections, be it the residual marks of spilt wine, the taint of political corruption or the detrimental impact humans are having on the world through our excessive and apathetic pollution. The hangdog observations don't stop there as the desolation seeps into second song Thousand Oaks, written in response to front man Alec Ounsworth witnessing an interview with the survivor of a mass shooting and being affected by the blood smeared shirt she wore.
While Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has essentially always been a solo vehicle for lead singer/songwriter Alec Ounsworth, the group's introspective sixth album, 2021's New Fragility takes this idea to its fullest degree. Recorded and produced by Ounsworth in Austin, Texas with some additional production by Will Johnson, New Fragility is a poetic, deeply personal album that finds Ounsworth searching for an ever-deeper sense of meaning in what often feels like an increasingly tumultuous and fragile world. The album follows 2017's The Tourist, which itself was Ounsworth's first album as the sole remaining member of the band.
Alec Ounsworth admits to having written only one political Clap Your Hands Say Yeah song in the band's previous 15 years of existence--though, to be fair, it's one of his most popular, 2005's "Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood. " Ounsworth has never been a particularly candid lyricist either, his intentions usually assumed through his staunch commitment to independence and occasional antagonistic streak. These qualities once epitomized an indie-rock era of peak preciousness and pacifism, and taking this same approach on CYHSY's first album since 2017's The Tourist wouldn't just be dated, it's basically inconceivable; artists, or really any empathetic being, are expected to be engaged, enraged, and open to expressing exactly how that feels.
Ever since, like so many of their peers (especially those not listed above), they've struggled to find a vein of form that extends for more than two albums. New Fragility is their (well, his - Alec Ounsworth is the sole remaining member) sixth album, and it's the strongest album put out under the banner for quite some time. Ounsworth felt like he had something to prove this time around, and he tried to imbue the album with a more intimate, more thoughtful version of his signature twitchy indie-pop.