Only Run, the fourth self-released album from Philadelphia based band, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, is also the first full-length since losing three fifths of the original line-up in 2012. Though it was their first album that broke through with major online buzz and circulation, they have since fallen short of meeting the same acclaim. This album, however, is a step in a more optimistic direction for lead singer/songwriter Alec Ounsworth. The music lends a rhythmic and euphoric sensibility; featuring bigger synths than ever before, and at times, a Thom Yorke-like sounding Ounsworth.
The premiere track and lead single, “Coming Down,” features guest vocals by former CYHSY tour mate, The National’s Matt Berninger. The track blends discordant garage-rock sounds with the cosmic newness of heavy synthesizer. Vocally, the two sound mellifluous together. The contrast between Berninger’s classic baritone and Ounsworth’s trembling, emotionally wailing voice gives the album the momentum it needs. While the song is exciting, the title-track, “Only Run,” also the median song between beginning and end, is arguably the most resonating on the album. The track is haunting and begs for urgency. Ounsworth’s isn’t new to ruminating lyrics, and this album is no exception. With lyrics like, “Now it’s my time with your thinking/I don’t need to be strong/I don’t care anymore,” CYHSY certainly showcases skills in songwriting.
Over the years, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have progressively reformed and altered their sound. There is no denying that the band has seen drastic changes since their 2005 debut, but it is worth recognizing that deviation is important for music to continue evolving. Only Run, though seemingly more a solo project, attests to the original precept of the band: making music on their own terms.
– Samantha M. Lopez