When I left for work on Monday morning, I definitely wasn’t expecting to come home after seeing Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The band had been on hiatus and hadn’t release a new album in about three years, and it was only recently that they announced a fall tour, including a now sold out show at Bowery Ballroom, for their new release. I hadn’t bought a ticket quick enough and placed them on that mental list of bands I’m interested in for a future date, when suddenly I saw from my inbox that they were playing a surprise show at Littlefield in Gowanus. I managed to get a ticket, as did, coincidentally, a couple of friends, and that night found myself in the intimate venue with only a loose crowd. Compared to the masses that will probably be at their fall performances, I felt lucky to be able to stand one person away from the stage in the small venue.
I honestly hadn’t been too tuned into their music since their 2005 self-titled album, only feeling engaged by a few of the songs on their second album in 2007. But Alec Ounsworth’s voice has a way of staying in my head; I can’t say that anyone else sounds quite like him. It sort of reminds me of Jeff Mangum (who I’m excited to also be seeing this year in October) or John McCauley of Deer Tick, instantly recognizable, pulling, even grating, and unlistenable for some people. Yet Ounsworth’s voice is what made songs like “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” and “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood” so gnawingly unforgettable and weirdly captivating. I was thrilled Monday night to finally hear those songs that had stuck with me for six years, and to find out where their new music was headed. It was a more structured, less winding than the older music, but still driven by Ounsworth’s howling vocals and the band’s enthusiastic and precise instrumentation. The crowd was a little quiet, almost like we’d all just stumbled in unexpectedly. Which, I guess, we did.
Here is a video taken by someone who is not me: