"The first track of the album is distorted on purpose. This is an artistic choice and not a limitation of the download or corruption of the file." I'm glad that's been cleared up. The quote is taken from the disclaimer Insound put up on its Web site to reassure customers who took part in the Some Loud Thunder presale offer and received a digital copy of the album weeks early. Of course, if I were a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah fan and had just plunked down some hard-earned cash for the band's new album, this little revelation would raise the question: Why the hell are these guys purposely mucking up songs with washed-out, stuck-between-stations effects?[more:]
Yes, I said songs. This faux-artistic "lo-fi" aesthetic rears its ugly head on a several other occasions throughout the course of Some Loud Thunder, most notably on the hopelessly vapid "Satan Said Dance" and "Arm and Hammer." That a band would waste the talents of a producer like Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) and "reward" fans who bought hundreds of thousands of copies of its eponymous debut (2005) is just sheer navel-gazing arrogance. It's not as though the band doesn't have a blatant enough shortcoming as it is: That frontman Alec Ounsworth's vocals chords have taken one too many shots from the ugly stick is hardly breaking news-most listeners simply looked the other way throughout the band's debut. How could you not cheer for the guy when he was belting out his warbled cry in sheer jubilation? But Ounsworth now sounds like he's above it all, and that is the album's damning blow.
Ounsworth's impassioned delivery is gone throughout most of Some Loud Thunder, replaced by what can only be described as vague indifference. This can't be attributed to the (relative) happy/sad dichotomy between albums; you can still be gloomy with feeling. He wakes up just long enough to put in a few earnest spurts during the quiet-LOUD-quiet "Yankee Go Home," but it's a case of far too little, far too late.
***"Love Song No. 7" MP3: http://www.clapyourhandssayyeah.com/mp3/lovesongno7.mp3