Friday, February 09, 2007

Indie Rock For A New Millenium

"Some Loud Thunder" is the much anticipated follow-up album to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's internet phenomenon debut. CYHSY gained immense popularity through MySpace and word-of-mouth promotion, instead of relying on a record company promoting through traditional means. The unsigned (truly) indie rockers relied on good songs -- instead of image -- to sell records (take that Julian Casablancas). The self-titled debut made most Top 5 lists in 2005.

So, will they suffer the same fate as many unsigned artists who gain popularity...Would they be a "flash in the pan?" The release of Some Loud Thunder surprised many inattentive fans, but was quickly brought to light by being featured on the front page of the iTunes Store. The band has stayed true to form by self-releasing this album as well.

What about the music? "Sophomore slump" is a term we often use to let bands off the hook for releasing a sub-par album that doesn't live up to their potential (or for something that is different, and therefore scary, from a debut). This is not a sophomore slump. CYHSY has demonstrated again their urge to be unique -- Some Loud Thunder is quite different from the self-titled debut. The production is decidedly more "experimental" with the "blown speaker" production on the title track. (If you've heard the album, I bet you, like everyone else, checked your stereo/iPod/computer speakers/headphones)

There is that distinctive sound that we've come to expect from the vocal delivery of Alec Ounsworth. On "Emily Jean Stock" he sounds deliberately out of control, forcing his voice to bend and contort in a way that mysteriously sounds...well...good.

The album flows nicely -- one of those that could repeat in your car for a few days without sounding repetitious.

Overall, as a follow up, this album is very good -- though it definitely borders on being too experimental at times, "Five Easy Pieces" drones on for 6:49 with no payoff. Another negative is that the most catchy track is questionable in terms of lyrical content. I can't listen to "Satan Said Dance" without running the hook (satan, satan, satan...) in my head for a couple hours...also don't really want my son to sing along with that song as he is wont to do in certain car situations.

"Love Song No. 7" (listen) and "Yankee Go Home" (listen) are the stand out tracks.

4 out of 5

9 comments:

Jason Heron said...

I'm going to respond from the heart of my ear. I've listened to the new CYHSY album and have not been inspired to put it back on. This is, again, from the heart/gut of my ear. Maybe, if I'd put it on the headphones, I'd be able to say something specific and academic about it, but until that time, I'm sticking with my innards and saying it does not draw me back as their first album did. Man, when I heard their first album, I thought...well, who knows what I thought, but now I'm not thinking about them at all. I'll certainly give it another listen on the headphones and see what's what, and then maybe I'll have a better comment. However, I do believe in these from-the-gut listenings/opinions. I think rock has grabbed us all by the junks and we've enjoyed the sensation. When a record doesn't do it right-off, something is lacking. But maybe I'm too much the consumer and not enough the student. I want to change. Really, I do.

Tim said...

I like the gut response. I had a similar reaction to Bloc Party's new album. I got halfway through, and thought, "eh." And moved on to something else. I have the same reaction as you to CYHSY, "their first album was good, maybe this one will get better with time"

This will happen. Albums that are "good" will not move certain people, and those people are faced with a choice. They either force it -- listen to the album until they like it, or they leave it untouched in the collection for months until they are asked about it by an excited rock friend - they respond, "Oh yeah, top 5 of 200_"

You are right Jason, rock has us by the junk. More specifically though, I think we fall into the trap that the industry has us by the junk and we CONSUME anything it churns out...regardless of quality.

I still like this album though.

grant said...

please give a full review of the new 'bloc party' album so i know what to say when people ask my opinion at school. quickly please.

grant said...

Oh and please review The Apples in Stereo's "NewMagneticWonder." I have not been able to get ahold of it, though I have heard good things. Thank you.

Dan said...

I totally agree about "Emily Jean Stock" being a stand out. "Satan Said Dance" is amazing, but I share the same reservations about it that you do. As a pastor, it's hard to tell my friends in the church that my new favorite song is "Satan Said Dance". But man that song is so creepy cool.

Even if Some Loud Thunder doesn't grab yer junk, it's hard to not admire CYHSY. I mean, they are truly independent. They get the Rolling Stone articles and iTunes features simply on the merit of their art. Can you name one other band that is popular, critically adored and independent? I can't think of ONE.

Well...Fugazi. But that's a whole other world.

Good post, T.

Jason Heron said...

Point taken on CYHSY's independentness. Something I didn't take into account, as it's so completely foreign. It's like someone wrote a fairy tale called CYHSY. How long do you give them? I'm cynical. I don't think they'll stay independent forever. But then again, I'd love to be wrong, unless they're starving or cold or diseased. Then maybe a little "selling-out" will be good. Dan, you seem to know: what is the scale of sold outness? What is the spectrum like?

Anonymous said...

gotta agree with everybody on this one. i know, very co-dependant. sorry. but i love the new CYHSY, but have not felt the same urgings as i did when i listened to their first for the first time. i think it has to do with the situation, though. this became my 2005-2006 "plowing album" along with arcade fire's first and the brian jonestown massacre's "methodrone," when i plowed michigan wet snow out of driveways all winter at coniminiums in a diesel fumed cab of a skid steer. i couldn't quit listening to CYHSY and i owe this partly to the diesel fumes, partly to how cold my hands got when i took my gloves off to change albums on the ipod, and mostly because of the harmonica on "details of the war." however, i pre-ordered the new album and got it digitally, so mainly only listened to it on my ipod, through headphones. this to say, give it a chance on the headphones. i believe it is a lot richer of an experience. though the experimentation results in some muddy-ness through the album (as bob boilen states) certain songs benefit from this. its like listening to iggy and the stooges or neil with crazy horse. and on headphones, you can pick up things in the mud that are (almost) as clever as the harmonica part at the end of "details of the war." i like this album very much to the back half of their first album, which took me a while to dig, and now sometimes skip forward to. like the end of the first, this entire album takes time but the effort is definitely rewarded with songs like "satan said dance" (you're right tim, this one is very hard to not sing hours after it is over) and "goodbye to mother and the cover." my 2 favorites. i found it interesting that bloc party was brought up. when i first got "silent alarm," i hated it. i thought the drums were way to busy and the phrasing sometimes bothered me (and i'm a drummer!) however, lately, after 'forced' listening, that album has reached high rotation. i heard a song from their new one on NPR's "all songs considered" and liked it quite a bit. am very curious to hear the rest. sounds soulful and less busy.

i've also been rehashing elliott smith's "figure 8." man. incredible. but, another comment altogether.

jason shrontz

dan said...

I don't think it's odd that Bloc Party was brought up in the context of Clap Yr Hands. Both are danceable bands that find their musical roots in the danceable sounds of (*sigh*) "post-punk" music. Bloc Party obviously listens to way too much Joy Division and Alec Ounsworth found that "out of control" voice that bends and contorts (as Tim described) by listening to David Byrne and Talking Heads.

Everybody stop what you are doing and go download "Once In a Lifetime". You'll thank me later.

Tim said...

Gotta admit. I did not intend to listen to the new bloc party again, and then all this discussion started and my subconscious said, "if everyone is talking about them...it must be worth listening to..." So I started listening again. It's really good.

Also I think that CYHSY being independent is actually a benefit for them right now. One would be hard pressed to talk to someone with a rock IQ of say, 80 (below average) that hasn't heard about CYHSY. Since they have the recognition and respect of all the indie crowd, a record label would probably only hurt them.