No one expected a lengthy period of silence from a band as committed to noise-making as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (CYHSY), but after sophomore album “Some Loud Thunder,” that’s exactly what fans got. Now, after a four-year hiatus, the once-viral indie band has not only returned, but returned to form on their latest release “Hysterical.”
Based in both Brooklyn and Philadelphia, CYHSY rose to fame on the strength of their self-distributed, self-titled album. In 2005, the group signed with UK-based Wichita Recordings, and began to officially produce their brand of eclectic indie-pop. On “Some Loud Thunder,” CYHSY made a sincere effort to follow the success of their first album, but they were met with mixed reviews. On “Hysterical,” however, the lead singer Alec Ounsworth’s distinctive vocals and lyrics have evolved. The band proves as adept as ever at conjuring a joyful swarm of summertime melodies and sweeping instrumentals that are more peppy than the occasionally lugubrious and unfocused mess of “Some Loud Thunder.”
With the initial buildup of ethereal synths on top of a steady beat, “Same Mistake” starts the album on strong footing. The melody provides an easy entrance back into the world of CYHSY without overwhelming. The song does an excellent job of introducing the album’s core stylistic elements, and leaves room for the subsequent tracks to shine—“Hysterical” flows effortlessly, providing a different auditory experience with every song.
It’s no wonder that CYHSY decided to release the fourth track, “Maniac,” as a single before the album release—the track blends synth-pop with the band’s warmly embracing, idiosyncratic, and multi-layered sound. For an extremely upbeat track, the lyrics are surprisingly profound: “I miss the way you stare at me / As if I were a memory.” They prove that Ounsworth’s writing can be meaningful even within the context of music that is fun-loving and eminently danceable. Though the album’s pervasive joy often reads as a celebration of the group’s return, Ounsworth’s lyrics, while mostly inscrutable, remain marked by an eccentric pathos.
Though the group has a penchant for musical oddities—see the first track of their first album—their commitment to making effervescent music is more present than ever on “Hysterical.” Perhaps the most accessible tracks on the album are “Yesterday, Never” and “Ketamine and Ecstasy.” The former juxtaposes acoustic twang and electric guitar medleys with a background of hypnotic keyboard scales, while the latter is carried by its lively tune and repetitive, catchy chord progression. While both are irresistible, these songs indicate a dominant trend on the album away from the group’s beloved spasmodic enthusiasm towards more straightforward pop sensibilities. The tracks, however, do a good job at maintaining, if not adding to, the album’s manic energy.
On “Hysterical,” the band has refined their ballads as well as their uptempo numbers. In addition to their more fast-paced tracks, CYHSY prove capable of creating beautifully soft sounds, as evidenced by “In a Motel.” The slow swells of the violins accentuate the heartfelt melody and hauntingly sad lyrics. The song’s location on the album is perfect, following four addictive, relatively upbeat songs. The group further engages their more somber inclinations on album closer “Adam’s Plane.” At the beginning of the track, the band skillfully balances cutting piano trills with strong drums, to elegant effect. However, the song feels as though it disintegrates at the end as Ounsworth’s voice strains to overpower the crashing instrumentals.
“Hysterical” is a wonderfully self-celebrating album that signals the second coming of a band that has acquired a nearly mythical status over the years. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah seems as overjoyed about their return as their fans presumably are, and the group shows it very clearly in the predominantly cheerful tracks that do their name justice. “Hysterical” is familiar but refreshing at the same time, and as CYHSY’s first effort after their absence, it proves that even after four years’ silence, their joy is as contagious as ever.