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On the Tracks

Clap Your Hands Say Who?

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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were the bloggers’ darlings of 2005, winning converts with their danceable rhythms and charmingly lo-fi aesthetic. Simply put, their self-titled debut was fun. The only problem was that singer Alec Ounsworth’s peculiar, yelpy delivery made all the songs sound basically the same, which is forgivable on a first record but not so much after that. The Brooklynites seemed to understand the risk, and on album No. 2, titled Some Loud Thunder, they’ve gone racing off in many directions all at once. In fact, with each track, the band exhibits a different influence, starting with their own.

1. “Some Loud Thunder”
For the lo-fi first song, and the first song only, the band goes for the upbeat jangly scramble that worked so well the first time. The messy guitars and Ounsworth’s distinctive wail are firmly intact.

2. “Emily Jean Stock”
Here, Ounsworth switches to a nasally, laid-back tone that evokes Dylan, while church bells and crooning backup vocals feel distinctly Flaming Lips.

3. “Mama, Won’t You Keep Them Castles in the Air and Burning?”
With its ticking, slow buildup and layered sound, this track could be CYHSY’s bid to join the atmospheric, sonic-collage Arcade Fire camp.

4. “Love Song No. 7”
The synthy, melodramatic piano intro could drive you crazy trying to remember where you’ve heard it before (we’ll help you out—it’s “She’s As Cold As Ice”), but the creepy oscillating vocals are pure Dark Side of the Moon.

5. “Satan Said Dance”
Robotic glitches and oddball found sounds evolve into a groovy, driving bass line underlying tossed-off, sneering lyrics. In the vein of LCD Soundsystem.

6. “Upon Encountering the Crippled Elephant”
Why, hello, dirgy accordion polka interlude. How’d you end up here?

7. “Goodbye to Mother and the Cove”
Plucky, emotive strings bring us back to the halcyon days of Peter Gabriel. And when Ounsworth sings lines like “Is that the way you kiss a friend?” he sounds as deeply earnest as Gabriel does on his classic ballad “In Your Eyes.”

8. “Arm and Hammer”
The band wisely avoids baking-soda references in favor of a dissonant mixture of warm guitar chords and off-kilter vocals that sound like past-their-prime Pavement.

9. “Yankee Go Home”
Ounsworth indulges in a bit of bluesiness until the chorus kicks in with ... is that … could it be … baby talk? Turns out that babble is “Go Yankee go Yankee go hooooooome,” but it takes multiple listens to sort it out. Still, the song’s anthemic buildup makes it a standout.

10. “Underwater (You and Me)”
The easygoing, sing-along vibe evokes the peppier numbers from the Talking Heads songbook.

11. “Five Easy Pieces”
Doleful harmonicas and well-placed tambourine shimmers, plus soaring, drastically reverbed vocals, give this one the epic, open-road feel of a U2 anthem, minus the monster chorus. A suitably big closer to an album that is bravely ambitious and mostly succeeds.


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