“How can I open up?” asks Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Alec Ounsworth on “As Always”- the opening track of the band’s latest release. He seems to have answered his own question, as the song- a cosmic cascade of phaser synths and Ounsworth’s signature howl- introduces the soaring, synthetic atmosphere of Only Run– the band’s first LP since 2011’s Hysterical.
CYHSY has come a long way since their humble beginnings as a DIY-oriented indie band, but the overly electronic Only Run seems to lack that idiosyncratic energy that made them so buzzworthy in the first place. 2012 marked the departure of guitarist/keyboardist Robbie Guertin and bassist Tyler Sargent, which could offer explanation to such a wild reinvention of their sound. Lineup changes aside, the new album lacks substance, and left my appetite for classic Clap Your Hands hooks completely intact.
However, Only Run does not come without its merits. “Impossible Request” (my favorite of the ten tracks) is reminiscent of earlier material, capitalizing on a quick, assertive drum beat that offers the perfect contrast to the song’s droning synths. And as a bonus, a stripped-down alternate take of the same song acts as the closer to the album.
A sludgy, fuzzed-out bass line opens up the appropriately-titled “Coming Down” before the song launches into a hot mess of distorted guitars and dizzying synthesizers. And the song gets even better when Ounsworth’s vocal work is joined by The National’s own Matt Berninger, who lays down his creamy baritone throughout the latter half of the song. Check it out below.