Published Feb 22, 2017It's been over a decade since Clap Your Hands Say Yeah delivered their impressive self-titled album, embodying the spirit of the internet and fulfilling the implicit promise that good music would float to the top, without the help of a record label, online. As their fifth album The Tourist drops, a lot has changed: For one, CYHSY are no longer a band; it's just vocalist Alec Ounsworth, a solo project under his old team's moniker.
Disappointingly, another key transformation — at least, going off of this album — is Ounsworth's adoption of a pretty beige sound. The Tourist bolts out of the gate with opening track "The Pilot," a highlight that brings in a hint of beach rock as Ounsworth adopts a breathy, almost whispered approach to vocals that transforms his distinctive nasal sound in an intriguing way. It's CYHSY glazed with dream pop, the sort of track that pushes an artist's sound forward without ditching their fundamental identity.
The rest of the album doesn't feel as forward-thinking, though. "Better Off" is characteristic of it; like a CYHSY sludge made from a blend of the band's past work, it's too indistinct, and even its memorable moments — like the final build-up at the track's end — don't pay off. Similar is "The Vanity of Trying," which projects the same vague anxiety and depth that marks much of CYHSY's sound, but without really grabbing the listener.
To Ounsworth's credit, there are attempts to push the boundaries here, but most don't pay off. "Unfolding Above Celibate Moon" takes on a jaunty vibe that verges on too perky, while the calm and folksy "Loose Ends" is tonally at odds with the frenetic and anxious feeling of the rest of the album, and isn't helped by its heavy-handed, Banksy-style lyrical ruminations about modern life.
The album's missteps aren't egregious; rather, it's that after multiple listens, very little sticks. The Tourist's inconspicuousness is its biggest issue. (Independent)