Less than two years after Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's self-titled, self-distributed debut, they're already back, still unsigned in the United States (they've signed with Wichita Recordings in the U.K.), with a darker, more complex, messier mishmash of sounds that definitely won't please many fans of the slick pop perfect majesty of the bloggorific first. Some naysayers place over-production blame on David Fridmann, who has worked with Flaming Lips and Mogwai. Others think that CYHSY just want to prove themselves difficult or let listeners know they don't care about achieving any semblance of mainstream success. Stick with the album past the first, over-the-top low-fi distortion of a song, "Some Loud Thunder," and you'll be rewarded.
There's still lots of momentum in this album, but it comes in the form of almost fugue-like repetitions set in minor keys, such as in "Love Song no. 7," with its haunting piano plucks paired with Alec Ounsworth's signature whiney nasal croon. "Safe and sound, safe and sound," Ounsworth sings as though he's crying from his mother's womb. A slight whistle and accordion refrain build on the basic melody and a chorus of voices weaves in and out, singing as though from a sedated Edward Munch painting.
Juxtaposed against the lullaby is an up-tempo electro-dance tune titled "Satan Said Dance." Still set to a minor key, this track prominently features bleeps and burps and an out-of-control demonic synthesizer that plays a sort of call-and-response with the guitar.
Then the album closes a couple jangly-tambourine-man songs, like "Underwater (You and Me)," and "Five Easy Pieces." "Underwater," is brimming with bells and chimes of all sorts. Ounsworth is nearly always accompanied by harmony vocals here in sing-along style. "Five Easy Pieces," begins with accordion and piano joined with Bob Dylan-styled harmonica. Sonic guitars make wide open spaces and the vocals are more like whale coos than words.
Some Loud Thunder isn't as crowd-pleasing or refined, but CYHSY would have had a hard time trying to top their debut if they just chose to build on it. Thunder is raw, passionate, and oozing with texture, making for a rollicking fine ride.