Release Date: Jun 3, 2014
Record label: Xtra Mile Recordings
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
“I think you had me confused with a man who lost his mind.” sings Alec Ounsworth on first song of his new record, Only Run. This is certainly a fair assessment of where the press and listening public categorized the enigmatic singer of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah over the near decade since a brilliant self-titled debut. Sophomore record Some Loud Thunder proved challenging if, at times, unlistenable, and third record, Hysterical, was and wasn’t what the title suggested.
Taking less time to return than they did between 2007's Some Loud Thunder and 2011's, Hysterical, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah nonetheless seem like they've taken quite a journey when you listen to 2014's Only Run. Touted as a change in direction, primarily due to the band's heavier use of keyboards than on past recordings, Only Run is also the first album CYHSY recorded since parting ways with longtime members Robbie Guertin and Tyler Sargent in 2012. Rather than look for new members, lead singer/songwriter Alec Ounsworth and drummer Sean Greenhalgh forged onward as a duo (plus a few guest musicians), with Ounsworth handling all the guitar, keyboard, accordion, and vocal duties, and Greenhalgh tackling the percussion and synth programming.
Wedged right in the middle of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s 2007 LP, Some Loud Thunder, was “Satan Said Dance.” The track was as strange and disconcerting as its title, thanks in part to its heavy (and out of character) reliance on glitches, computer sounds and synths. Were these the sounds of the devil? Perhaps, yes, to indie darlings whose calling card had quickly become warbling vocals atop a stream of jangly guitars and disco-beat drumming. Seven years and two albums later, it seems that the Alec Ounsworth–led project has embraced the digital—through drum machines, synthesizers and interjected sound bites—for their newest release.
With three albums' worth of experience under their belt, Philadelphia's Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's fourth album sees the band finally confident enough to truly expand their sound into the stratosphere. While previous records have mostly stuck to the classic indie rock format, never straying too far from acoustic and electric guitar, Only Run dives headlong into the shimmering world of the synth. This works with almost startling success, Alec Ounsworth and friends sounding more determined and self-assured than ever before.
Clap Your Hands Say YeahOnly Run(CYHSY)3.5 out of 5 stars Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s self-released, self-titled debut was a big deal. Musically, it occupied a similar space as albums released by Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire in the year prior — good, if familiar tunes that scratched a persistent mainstream indie itch as MP3 blogs were beginning to dominate the conversation. The music — while solid — wasn’t necessarily the remarkable thing.
"As Always," the first song on Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's fourth album, is an enormous-sounding rush of ambient noise, thunderclap snare shots, iridescent guitar beauty and singer Alec Ounsworth guardedly assuring, "Sooner or later I will change/And we will be all right." The mix of rich ambition and shaky optimism defines a band that's traded clattery low-fi post-punk for music that's high-drama and hook-hearty. "Beyond Illusion" sets dazed-angel vocals atop tense dance rock; on "Coming Down," Ounsworth and the National's Matt Berninger go soul-searching. Only Run is an album that rarely seems overblown, even when the songs are big enough to fill a cathedral.
It’s fitting the first song on the new Clap Your Hands Say Yeah record is called ‘As Always’ because, as always, it’s the sound of the guitar devotee’s eminently thinkable mid-career move: go electronic. The agenda is set pretty starkly. A treated, mobius strip of a sustained note spools out into the distance, comes back, and reels out again for about 30 seconds.
Depending on your disposition, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are either a band to pity or one to envy. Their much-adored 2005 self-titled debut continues to tower over their entire subsequent discography, but then ringleader Alec Ounsworth seems more comfortable lurking in the shadows than basking in the spotlight. A glance at the band’s current touring itinerary reveals venues half the size of the ones they were headlining nine years ago, but Ounsworth is the sort of artist who’d rather play your living room than an arena.
Losing 60 percent of a band’s personnel is usually enough to pressure a songwriter into one of two directions: bring the project to an end or hire replacements and press on, trusting that they can strong-arm whatever magic came before — at least reasonably enough to fit the name on the cover. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, a stable five-piece for eight years and three albums, were whittled down to two after the sudden departures of Robbie Guertin and brothers Tyler and Lee Sargent last year. We can only speculate whether that had anything to do with the band’s second and third efforts falling very short of their (yes) genius 2005 eponymous debut, but there’s no speculation in saying that Some Loud Thunder and Hysterical, while good, were audibly conscious of just how great that debut was.
‘Coming Down’, the best track on ‘Only Run’, is a blustery rocker featuring a guest vocal by The National’s Matt Berninger, and seems to indicate what Clap Your Hands are hoping for from their 2014. Once buzzband, now former buzzband hoping to re-emerge as slow-burning success story, the Philadelphians’ fourth album reaches, broadly, for what Berninger’s band does so well: mournful not-quite-anthems with a lyrical edge that tends towards the cryptic. ‘Blameless’ and ‘Little Moments’ marshal some nice glimmering synths, but Alec Ounsworth’s mewling vocal – while unquestionably distinctive – remains a bit of an odd proposition to achieve the requisite Everyman appeal.Louis Pattison .
The changes are easy to catch early on with Clap Your Hand And Say Yeah’s latest, Only Run. Their first album minus two long-time members, the band seems to have invested in a slew of new equipment with synth and keyboards dominating the album’s indie rock sound. That’s not to say the guys have gone full electronica or dubstep, but there is certainly a noticeable difference just a couple of tracks in.
About a year ago, I had the opportunity to review Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s latest EP, titled Little Moments, for a different website. This EP, which was essentially an early buzz-builder for Only Run, was sent my way shortly before news broke of guitarist/keyboardist Robbie Guertin and bassist Tyler Sargent leaving the band, an announcement that made a ton of things click together at once. Little Moments didn’t feel like the product of a five-piece, and it certainly didn’t feel like the product of CYHSY, who even at their lowest with 2011’s over-polished and under-substanced Hysterical were largely a guitar-fueled affair.
opinion by MICHAEL WOJTAS Nearly a decade after Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s eponymous debut, the divisiveness that initially surrounded the band feels comically antiquated. Those ringing blogger endorsements and the accompanying web backlash that once made CYHSY into an unavoidable conversation piece have since lost all novelty. Revisiting their first record, or the 2007 follow-up Some Loud Thunder, it’s hard to imagine how those on either side of the argument ever managed to get so worked up about what amounts to a couple of catchy, off-kilter rock records.