Saturday, October 8, 2011
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - S/T
What’s in a name? One of my favorite indie bands possesses one of the coolest band names ever, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The first time I heard about Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (CYHSY) was back in 2005, when they self-released their eponymous debut album. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah sold an astounding 125,000 records through self-distribution and later signed with Wichita Records to release their second album, Some Loud Thunder. Even then my friend Danny and I couldn’t believe that an “indie band” could do that (I’m still in shock, but the album is that good). Clap Your Hands Say Yeah became the first indie band I followed and the first indie record I bought. They were also the first band I was ever exposed to scalped tickets.
Back in the fall of 2005, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah performed at the famous Troubadour club in Los Angeles. Danny immediately purchased tickets for us a month in advance. Shortly thereafter, the show sold out and over the next couple of weeks the demand was so great, ticket sellers on eBay were demanding 10x the original ticket price. Our less than $20 tickets soon became “worth” $200 and we couldn’t believe it. That was the first, but it wouldn’t be the last time when I bought a highly coveted ticket for an indie artist.
Still, even six years later Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has endured as an extremely popular indie rock band. CYHSY gained further exposure with an appearance in the film The Great Buck Howard starring John Malkovich and Tom Hanks along with their songs appearing on NBC’s The Office and in films such as The Virginity Hit, Choke and Whip It. Despite their critical acclaim from music blogs, critics and internet publications such as Pitchfork, the average music fan is unaware of this fantastic band. Their third album Hysterical was recently released and I wanted to properly honor the band that turned me on to indie rock music.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is composed of Alec Ounsworth (lead singer and guitar), Robbie Guertin (guitar and keyboard), Lee Sargent (guitar and keyboard), Tyler Sargent (bassist), and Sean Greenhalgh (drums and percussion). Twin brothers Tyler and Lee Sargent and Robbie Guertin also contribute backing vocals. Brooklyn’s Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s eponymous debut was released in 2005 and still sounds fresh today.
CYHSY sounds similar to bands like Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Handsome Furs, Architecture in Helsinki, and Tapes N’ Tapes. If you like more mainstream indie rock/alternative bands such as Broken Social Scene, Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire then I’m very confident CYHSY will be a band you’ll enjoy.
CYHSY kicks off with “Clap Your Hands!” a song that feels reminiscent of The Beatles during the Sgt. Peppers/ Yellow Submarine era. The song echoes a Yellow Submarine/ Ringo Starr kind of vibe with Ounsworth’s vocals before being accompanied by his bandmates singing the lyrics “Away we go.” At the 35 second mark, a rush overtakes you and you feel compelled to join in clapping and singing along with the song. In less than two minutes, you’re hooked!
Everything comes together on “Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away.” The song opens with a tambourine before progressing into something grander. Alec Ounsworth’s sweet voice shines and you can easily sense a little David Byrne with his different vocal style. Ounsworth’s remarkable range as a singer reigns supreme and showcases the wonderment that is indie rock. Throughout the song the tambourine is fully utilized and you couldn’t ask for anything more. This is what a good indie rock song should sound like.
In the era of college radio being perceived as somewhat “mainstream,” CYHSY and other indie bands have gained immense exposure for what most individuals believe to be nothing more than low-budget rock. For those who regularly disown and mock the genre, it’s easy to see why you might perceive indie rock that way. I used to be like you. However, think about this: How was metal music originally perceived or better yet rock’n roll when it was first introduced? Nowadays it’s hard to find a new artist who hasn’t been influenced or inspired by an indie rock band. It’s because of songs like “Over and Over Again (Lost and Found)” so many people are attracted to this genre of music, including myself.
“You look like David Bowie/ But you've nothing new to show me/ Start another fire /And watch it slowly die,” are some of the awesome lyrics included on this album. Maybe it’s just me because I have constantly listened to this album, but every time this some plays I’m entirely engulfed by how moving this song still sounds today. A good song, no matter how obscure or popular, will always bring out the best of your emotions and “Over and Over Again” certainly accomplishes that.
The sounds of a xylophone kickstart “Sunshine and Clouds (And Everything Proud)” and is an awesome transition , which leads to one of CYHSY’s best songs, “Details of the War,” included on their debut album. Later on “Details of the War”, there are echoes of Bob Dylan, particularly with the harmonica playing found in the latter part of this song. From track four to track six, it’s flawless transition from one song to next and its track number six that’s particularly the best song found on Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
The very first time I heard “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” I immediately fell in love with it. There are certain songs out there that the very first time you hear it you immediately connect with it. This connection proves that “love at first sight” does exist, albeit it with sound instead. Once the drum kit starts, you feel inspired and motivated to shake your head and rock out to this amazing song.
“The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” is CYHSY’s signature song and easily my favorite “indie song of all time.” Opponents of indie music will criticize Ounsworth’s uncertain and uncharacteristically unique voice as non-sense, but those dissenters aren’t appreciating the soul he has unleashed in this song. Ounsworth’s unique singing style is the epitome of what indie music stands for: standing out and being completely different.
“Is This Love” is another perfect example exemplifying Ounsworth’s brilliant vocals, the tambourine friendly “Heavy Metal” and the transitional, acoustic “Blue Turning Gray” round out the next three tracks. “In This Home On Ice” and “Gimme Some Salt” pick up the pace once again with songs showcasing the simplistic styling of CYHSY’s catchy lyrics and instrumentation. The album closes out with the spectacular “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood” and proves even the last track of an album can be amazing. Two albums later, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah still remains a popular and prominent indie indie rock band that continues to make great music.