Never the one to rest on his laurels, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah‘s frontman Alec Ounsworth and collaborator Sean Greenhalgh have been constantly searching for ways to expand the sounds of the Philadelphia band. In their ten years together, CYHSY’s sound has constantly evolved, starting with the indie pop songs of their excellent, self-titled, debut album and 2007’s follow up Some Loud Thunder to the heavier, indie-rock-influenced Hysterical. On their fourth album, Only Run, we find CYHSY still reinventing themselves.
Absent, for the most part, are the bass and scathing guitars, and in their place there is a greater emphasis on synthesizers and electric drums. The catchy indie-pop songs and darker indie-rock are replaced by a more atmospheric, dreamy sound. And unlike the previous two albums, Only Run is much more cohesive, which could be explained by Ounsworth wanting the album to chronicle the band’s and his own personal experiences in music. And like any story, the album ebbs and flows with high points complemented by more serene, calmer moments. There are also times where the music makes you feel like you are drifting, as if walking alongside Ounsworth on this personal journey.
“As Always” and “Blameless” open the album, and they exemplify this floating feeling. The former begins slowly with the silence of a synthesizer before soaring to its denouement while the latter is more controlled, never rising or falling to far.
Any story about one’s life, of course, must pay tribute to those who have been influential or whom one idolizes. “Coming Down” features The National’s frontman Matt Berninger, and you can hear the subtle influence of the Brooklyn band with the dark lyrics and careening tempo. It is also the one song that follows the indie-rock ambitions of Hysterical. The astonishing and brilliant “Little Moments” combines New Order and M83 to create a jubilant synth-pop song, although one wishes that the song would never end or at least end with an incredible flurry (always a good sign when you want the song to continue endlessly).
“Only Run” echoes of the sounds of ’80s rock, namely Pat Benatar, Stevie Nicks, and The Eurhythmics, who were able to create music that made you felt you were being chased or chasing someone, something. “Impossible Request” also has an ’80s feel, although more along the lines of Glenn Frye coupled with the CYHSY’s ability to create rising and shifting melodies. “Beyond Illusion” clearly has a late-’90s, early-2000s Radiohead feel (OK Computer, Kid A, and Amnesiac) with its computerized beginning and droning keys. You can almost hear a bit of Thom Yorke in Ounsworth’s voice on the track.
On “Cover Up”, CYHSY call upon the talents of Kid Koala to help create a more mystical sound. This haunting track feels as if Ounsworth is lost somewhere or with someone. In some ways, the song is a reflection of the band’s ten years, constantly searching for perfection and its path. With Only Run, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah may have just found their way.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have just commenced their tour, which includes tour stops in Toronto (Monday, June 16 at The Horseshoe Tavern) and Montreal (Tuesday, June 17 at Il Motore). More dates on their website and Facebook page.
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