Funky, folk, indie, all over the place master class from the indie darlings
Returning with more collective style indie-pop are sometime Pitchfork darlings of the noughties “Clap Your Hands Say Yeah”. Alec Ounsworth and associates are back, with their fifth album “The Tourist”. Initial impressions being that it’s a touch funkier than before, “Am I The pilot or Am I the Tourist?” is a particularly strong opener, complete with the crescendo style effect that CYHSY do particularly well. “A Chance To Cure” amps up the noise with a psychedelic shoegaze swirl over a danceable (well, for CYHSY) beat.
And then you remember never to pigeonhole the band, as they can take on any genre… “Down (Is Where i Want To Be)” starts slow, before the biggest singalong chorus of the album hits in, backed by a surprisingly retro guitar solo. A chance for breath on “Unfolding Above Celibate Moon”, where they manage the trick of making a track seem paranoid while including a harmonica solo.
The more restrained side returns to “Fireproof”, almost sounding like something that could be featured on a No Depression compilation. The east coast sound rooted on a long road through the desert somewhere.
“Vanity of Trying” is a return to the more familiar New York post-punk sound, you can hear the ghosts of Talking Heads coming through. Then “Loose Ends” wrongfoots you again by starting as an acoustic guitar folksy protest song, if we’re still in New York, it could only be Greenwich Village… “Ambulance Chaser” then ups the ante and breaks out the string section. Closer “Visiting Hours” ends on an acoustic lament backed by a guitar drone, an interesting idea, but the only track where I’m not wholly convinced by the execution.
The Tourist is a reminder to why CYHSY remain important. It sometimes feels lyrically sparse, with long instrumental themes throughout most of the early tracks, but a clever track listing means that the latter tracks appear to have much more to say – especially “Ambulance Chaser”. It feels less certain of itself, the vocals seeming to swirl just out of reach on some tracks. Every time I listen to it, it takes a while to grab me, but by the end of the album I’m always listening attentively. And that’s important – it really works an album. No mean feat given that these musical references are all over the place. The feel is a really hopeful and uplifting sound with just enough edge to represent these times.
The band are on tour in Europe in the later part of the year, and it sounds like these songs will certainly enhance the setlist. Coming away from it, it’s impressive the variety of musical styles here, all of which still somehow fit into a CYSY signature style. It does feel much more polished and smoothly produced than previous efforts, which means it’s not always as arresting a listen. On the other hand, it’s a well put together and flowing body of work, an excellent album, and will leave listeners eager for what comes next.