A vulnerable alt-rock saga
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s latest album New Fragility is an intellectually charged modern tribute to the age of ‘90s indie rock. The sometimes political, often broken-hearted collection of well-produced and carefully crafted songs cover a lot of emotional ground, with songs varying in heavy topics from the analysis of failed relationships to the shortcomings of modern governments. From the indie rock musicality and raw vocal tones, the group is reminiscent of other acts like Ezra Furman and Wolf Parade. The group also channels some Bob Dylan vibes through frontman Alec Ounsworth’s distinctive voice and their eccentric and smart lyricism.
The opening track, “Hesitating Nation,” is a bold opener for the album, with the song tackling the topic of corruption found in society. Shrouded by heavenly echoes, the lyrics manage to humbly and subtly criticize the superficial nature of advanced civilization. Ounsworth said of “Hesitating Nation,” “[The] song is meant to convey my sense of disappointment and alienation with the rewarded mentality of getting ahead at all costs, inevitably to the detriment of those who didn’t sign up to be part of the experiment.”
The album continues with features from some more political songs, which Ounsworth says is unusual for the group. “Thousand Oaks,” for example, details the effects of an “American massacre in Southern California.” This song, like the subject matter, feels yearning and desperate for change.
The album’s title track, “New Fragility,” details a failed first love and the realizations of the new power and pain that come with attraction. With really genuine and vivid explanations of moments in relationships stuck across time, the song seems honest and real, like a young Ounsworth wrote it down himself and is just now facing the music 20 years later.
“Mirror Song” documents a relationship that feels like it’s on repeat. The same old bars, conversations and experiences, an endless wheel with your same love, getting old fast. Delicate and fragile, for some listeners, this song may feel all too familiar.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah crafts little nostalgic ballads in New Fragility. These 10 tracks are each handmade and feel built around a memory, making the album feel more like a diary than a piece of musical art. The album’s raw vulnerability gives each bar a sense of familiarity and understanding that transcends some of this group’s past work over the last 16 years.