Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, “Hysterical”

This is the third release for these indie darlings, and it shows. They’ve reached that place where experience meets with rejuvenated enthusiasm, and it’s pretty enjoyable. The numerous side projects of several band members don’t seem to have distracted CYHSY from what they’re about, and the four-year gap from their sophomore album has served them well. Hysterical is definitely more fun than their second album, but missing whatever magical ingredient people picked up on with their first. Lead vocalist Alec Ounsworth, whose rough, energetic tenor could be kind of grating, sounds much smoother. This makes for a more pleasant, albeit more generic sound overall.

Hysterical is nothing revelatory, or really remarkable, but it’s polished and sometimes danceable, especially for those of us who are a bit spastic. There are a couple of more reflective songs, but they don’t take the tone down with them; instead they round out the overall experience. Despite many high-energy songs, overall there’s a lack of drive behind it, perhaps reflective of a lack of inspiration.

Listen to: Same Mistake, Siesta (For Snake)

St. Vincent, “Strange Mercy”

Unpredictable and unconventional, one gets the sense that Annie Clark (the talented songstress behind St. Vincent) is constantly hovering between cool and crazy. Strange Mercy is strange indeed; Clark’s haunting vocals are alternately ethereal and earthly, evoking comparisons to Feist and Florence Welch. Lyrically intriguing and musically layered, she manages to strike a good balance between unique orchestrations and catchy compositions.

Not all of these songs are very melodic, and these are not particularly memorable, but they are all interestingly and deliberately crafted. Even a cursory listen reveals incredible dimension, a wholeness of sound. There’s a real depth here. Clark is a powerhouse of ability; a match to her usually ambitious musical concepts.

Some momentum is lost close to the end, and ultimately one is left feeling like the best of what St Vincent can bring is yet to come—but you want to be there when it does. Clark seems like an artist’s artist, but, like an incomplete cadence, there’s something unfinished that lingers after the album is over. All in all, it’s weird, it’s almost wonderful, and it’s definitely worth a listen.

Listen to: Cruel, Champagne Year.

Additional Info

  • Subtitle: Vanessa Purdy has a listen to two new indie releases, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, “Hysterical” and St. Vincent, “Strange Mercy”
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