Hysterical by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah might be a wordy name for a band, but it is such an appropriate title for their sound and the music they have released in the last couple of years. Some of their songs can be mellow and relaxing, yet they all have an upbeat edge with a lush sound that can make an optimist out of anyone. In an interview with Cornell’s college newspaper, lead singer Alec Ounsworth described the band in one word: “Bubbly.” The band’s newest album, Hysterical, expresses a bit more melancholy, but it still manages to live up to the carbonated adjective.
Hysterical launches into the initial track “Same Mistake” (possibly the best track on the album) with a fast drum beat, melodic mixture of instruments and Ounsworth’s slightly slurred vocals. The song moves quickly from intro to verse to chorus, and the strings in the background keep the beauty in the melody. From this song onward, the album maintains an electronic sound and steady beats. Even some of the slower songs, such as “Misspent Youth” and “Siesta (For Snake),” have a pretty quick pace mellowed by light piano and softer vocals. “Siesta” is an aptly named song. The ideal time to listen to it would be during a sunny afternoon nap. It’s calming yet bright. At the same time, oddly enough, all of these songs are danceable. It walks the fine line of being both laid back, yet still fun.
Ounsworth has a voice reminiscent of Thom Yorke of Radiohead, smooth yet somewhat slurred. The lyrics, which are descriptive and poetic, tend to bleed into one another, the words melding together, making the vocals seem like just another layer of instrumentation as opposed to the driving force of the song. There is something to be said for not putting focus on the words. The guitar solos and instrumental sections never seem too long or too forced, as they flow from the lyrics and complement Ounsworth’s voice. The quality of the sound and the layering of guitars, on drums, on strings, on feedback, on vocals is more impressive because the album was self-released and self-produced.
While Hysterical is a pleasant listening experience and a wonderful soundtrack to autumn, nothing on the album stands out in particular. Each song is great and enjoyable, but there isn’t a single track that I couldn’t get out of my head or that I simply had to play again. Once the album is over, it feels over, and there is no memorable hook or lyric to pull the listener back in. The album’s cohesiveness might be overdone—it is difficult to tell the songs apart because they all have the same steady beat and layered instrumentation. However, there aren’t any songs on this album that disappoint or require a skip over. Every song works, and the album as a whole is dreamlike and relaxing, but it is a dream the listener eventually wakes up from and quickly forgets.