Clap Your Hands Makes Some 'Thunder'

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Detail from the CD cover of 'Some Loud Thunder'.

Detail from the CD cover of Some Loud Thunder. hide caption

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The rock band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah released its first record last year, on its own label. But in short order, the Brooklyn-based quintet became an Internet darling. Thousands flocked to the band's MySpace page to hear its songs and buy its CD.

Bloggers also began to hurl extra-large superlatives its way. Pretty soon, major labels came knocking, but the band decided to remain independent.

This week, it is releasing its second record on its own label: Some Loud Thunder.

The CD starts off with distortion, and shows signs of the "thinking-too-much-about-the-second-record" blues. But just when it feels like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is deliberately sabotaging its reputation, along comes the gem "Safe and Sound."

That's pretty much the pattern throughout this maddening and often brilliant record. The band starts by pushing listeners away, and as the record unfolds, gradually lets them come closer. Sometimes the music is totally opaque and cloudy. And sometimes singer and songwriter Alec Ounsworth's words seem like a streak of disconnected images, breadcrumbs on a path.

But by the last few songs, Ounsworth changes his tactics as a lyricist. On a song called "Yankee Go Home," he sketches a more precise/literal picture of an ugly American on holiday.

No doubt about it: The new record from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is more challenging than the band's debut. But there's more going on than random distortion and oscillating goop. Spend enough time with it, and you begin to hear gorgeous melodies rising from the din. And then you realize: This record won't spill all its secrets the first time through. But that doesn't mean there aren't secrets waiting in there.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah In Concert

Listen: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in Concert on All Songs Considered

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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Mattias Elgemark hide caption

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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Mattias Elgemark

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah bring their quirky and ever-addictive brand of artful, indie pop to Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club for a full concert, originally webcast live on March 8, 2006.

The Brooklyn-based group is known not only for its passionate, inspired music, but also for redefining the art of do-it-yourself record production and promotion. They released their self-titled debut CD on their own label (also called Clap Your Hands Say Yeah), distributed it to stores and radio stations and promoted it through their Web site entirely on their own. The subsequent online buzz and airplay shot Clap Your Hands Say Yeah to what counts as major stardom in indie music circles.

According to the band's official bio, "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was conceived in the belly of the Great Whale. Upon departure, its members floated to shore. Five arrived alive: Alec Ounsworth, Sean Greenhalgh, Tyler Sargent, Lee Sargent, and Robbie Guertin. They are multi-instrumentalists under the age of 48. The live arrangement is as follows: Alec Ounsworth, guitar and vocals, Sean Greenhalgh, drums and percussion, Tyler Sargent, bass and backing vocals, Lee Sargent, guitar and keyboard and backing vocals, Robbie Guertin, guitar and keyboard and backing vocals. Alec Ounsworth lives in Philadelphia, Pa. Sean Greenhalgh, Tyler Sargent, Lee Sargent, and Robbie Guertin live in Brooklyn, N.Y. They are citizens of the United Sates of America. Alec Ounsworth writes the songs for the project in Philadelphia. The songs are then transported to New York (via bus, car, or train), shaped, re-shaped, finally reaching a certain completion that returns again to the belly of the Great Whale and is initially and finally Clap Your Hands Say Yeah."

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