In this century so far, no artist to my mind has experienced the highs and lows in music like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
Having released their landmark 2005 self-titled debut independently, the album was met with worldwide adulation. No band had the indie circles in such a feverish trance like the Philadelphia/Brooklyn-based collective. The world was at their feet.
It was the sort of acclaim that vanished as quick as it arrived and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah haven’t recaptured the public ear so vigorously since. As sad as it is to say, they probably never will.
Now operating solely as a project for singer/guitarist, Alec Ounsworth, New Fragility (like the project itself circa-2021) arrives with little fanfare.
And it’s to Ounsworth‘s great credit. An artist whose sole focus is to write music for himself and nobody else.
In a new world that seemingly bares Clap Your Hands Say Yeah little love, why should one comprise their art in a bid to adhere to modern day trends? The band’s remit hasn’t changed since the day their debut album dropped independently and, after all, it’s not for an artist to choose its audience, but for the audience to choose them.
Ounsworth has little care for neither and perhaps if more artists took this stance then perhaps we wouldn’t need the likes of Bandcamp to operate as a one man army to fight the scourge of today’s music industry.
Speaking of one man armies, New Fragility starts with Hesitation Nation. A nerve-jangling song that showcases Clap Your Hands Say Yeah‘s finest elements. Angling progressions and those anxious dramatic build-ups we fell in love with 15 years ago.
Thousand Oaks follows and is equally as strong. A song that focuses on the mass shooting at the Borerline Bar & Grille in 2018, where 12 people lost their lives and left 16 people injured. As a songwriter, here Ounsworth approaches new terrains.
Seldom seen as a political band or indeed lyricist, Ounsworth takes expert aim, questioning the public’s response to such atrocities. In a modern age where death is forgotten as quick as a football score or Facebook like, Ounsworth‘s chilling assessment of the new world cuts through.
Notwithstanding the gorgeous (and arguably album highlight) title track, the remainder of New Fragility sees Ounsworth dabble in balladry. Dee, Forgiven probably would have been an electric assault in the band’s younger days, but here it’s cloaked by the rich ivories and spacious percussion.
The showering of strings during Innocent Weight and the stripped down nature of Mirror Song and Where They Perform Miracles, both of which cut close to the bone of a relationship breakdown, sees Ounsworth taking an inward, reflective approach. The latter, could well be one of the most beautiful songs Ounsworth has written yet.
In 2021, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are like the nightmare-riddled widow that has escaped the public eye in favour for seclusion, merely content to potter around and tend to the garden. The only company being the breeze-swept trees that masquerade the skyline.
It serves Ounsworth well on New Fragility. It may not garner a new listenership, but for those who have always held an interest, it’s a fine adventure indeed.
New Fragility is out now via CYHSY. Purchase from Bandcamp.