Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Only Run

Only RunAlmost ten years into their career, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are a long way away from the band they started out as. The now two-piece from Philadelphia are obviously some members short from their debut days. Despite that, under the same name the band who rose to fame through the acclaim of music blogging and are known for their literally “indie” DIY approach, are back with a fourth full length release. Their ambient indie album Only Run is due out on Xtra Mile Recordings in the UK and, typically of the band by now, independently in North America and Japan.

Singer Alec Ounsworth poured his heart and soul into the creation of this album. Much like the band's debut, it’s the result of an artist’s singular vision. It intends to give the listener a loose but insightful view into the last ten years of Ounsworth’s life as an artist. This almost makes it an artistic eulogy of the band so far, and it certainly comes across that way.

Only Run doesn't follow a particular sound, and blends from synth-pop to indie-rock and back imitating euro-pop seamlessly. The opening two tracks are atmospheric synth-lead pop sounds, with crashing drums protruding through “As Always”. “Blameless” is led by a strong organ sound that’s littered with hi-hat. Third track “Coming Down” is where the album really takes off, opening with a dirty distorted riff and building towards a wall of noise which comes across as the perfect live closer. This track features Matt Berninger of The National, whose almost nervy deep spoken word vocals are the perfect accompaniment to Ounsworth's almost Brandon Flowers-esqe higher octaves.

Following on from this are two tracks ripped from 2013 EP release Little Moments; both the eponymous song and the title of that EP. These songs were once again written and crafted by Alec Ounsworth before being brought into a studio environment, giving further proof that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah as a project exists almost purely upon a strong form of individuality and identity, both from its members and its fans. Ounsworth has a deep admiration for intransigent songwriters such as Tom Waits, Lou Reed and the great Bob Dylan, and this breeds a belief in the creative control of an artist. It’s also another reason why Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are so determined to self-release their material.

While this ethos has gained the band acclaim from old school music fans, and struck a chord with individuals in the indie scene back in the early days, it was always obvious that this belief was no ruse. The band has a genuine belief in the fact that they’re artists and wish to stay that way. Their sound is still very relate-able to David Byrne and Talking Heads, but Only Run finds the band expanding on the joyful, excitable sound of 2011 release Hysterical - despite the use of gloomy, almost sombre electronics. Some of the arrangements are reminiscent of early-2000s alt-indie, along the lines of Radiohead. Meanwhile penultimate track “Cover Up” features Kid Koala and brings the record right into the modern age.

The renewed sense of optimism that Alec Ounsworth has explored during the creative process of Only Run really shines through. It’s perhaps due to this writing from the soul approach that the album comes across as extremely current; almost invasive into Ounsworth's private thoughts. In all honesty, this is probably the best Clap Your Hands Say Yeah release since the self-titled debut, and thoroughly deserves your time.

Release: 2nd June 2014, Xtra Mile


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