Attention college radio listeners, music blog readers, strung-out SXSW attendees, and anyone else who's heard this Brooklyn-slash-Philly band-of-the-moment: That shrill, tedious noise ringing in your ears is not the hypersonic buzz surrounding Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, although you wouldn't be blamed for thinking so. It is in fact the voice of Alec Ounsworth, whose David Byrne pose on the group's full-length debut often gives way to an uneasy (and occasionally thrilling) style of singing that can only be described as indie-rock yodeling. Or maybe a human theremin. Okay, there are tons of ways to describe that voice--in fact, it's half the fun of listening to the album.
But beneath the noise--of Ounsworth and the hype--lie half a dozen excellent songs that stand up to the "sounds like" game and win. That's because Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is a pastiche of pop elements that have proven to warm the cockles of bleeding hearts from Seattle to Manchester: Neutral Milk Hotel-inspired acoustic guitar power chords ("Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood"), that high-pitched electric guitar quiver that Modest Mouse used to do ("The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth"), good 'n' gloomy new-wave undertones (the aptly chilling "In This Home on Ice"), and plenty of disco-beat drumming ("Is This Love"). With parts like that, the sum doesn't have much work to do, thus Clap Your Hands Say Yeah steps into the role of "great album" with elegant ease. It's not earth-shattering, but rather the next inevitable step in a line that includes old indie pop and new no-wave. It also has its flaws, such as trying to be simultaneously danceable and sentimental but failing on both counts and landing somewhere in between. Still, CYHSY is even better than it looks on paper and certainly worthy of the hype, presumably because it is in fact hype and not the content-independent marketing of enormous record labels (that comes later in the word-of-blog business model). That other sound you're hearing? It's the din of cash registers chiming, ticket windows slamming shut, and legions of teenagers teaching themselves to sing like a broken clarinet.
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