Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were arguably the model for younger indie rock bands circa their 2005 debut, proof that a truly DIY approach and a commitment to quality over quantity could result in Letterman appearances, high billing at festivals, and higher placement on year-end critics’ lists. Following 2007’s Some Loud Thunder and a four-year hiatus, 2011’s Hysterical may not have won CYHSY many new fans, but the most ardent subsection of their fan base was pleased. Their re-return, the four-track Little Moments EP, is a move to a subgenre, synth-pop, that doesn’t necessarily reward frontman Alec Ounsworth’s strengths. These are 16 insubstantial minutes from a band – now without multi-instrumentalist Robbie Guertin and bassist Tyler Sargent – that once offered nothing but substance.
“Little Moments” and “Only Run”, the two new songs here, strive for electro-pop without scaling the level of, say, CHVRCHES, the Scottish trio that’s doing these sounds more vigorously than anyone else right now. The title track is all bubbling synths and, like each other number here, entirely without guitar. Everything on the song rises steadily without ever cresting. “Only Run”, however, is the EP’s one gem, its building power considerably more effective. Ounsworth has always been sneaky with his melodies, and the vocal layers of the five-minute song’s second chorus make for Little Moments’ finest little moment.
The pair of B-sides might have been built on some of Ounsworth’s most potent ideas of late, but they appear on the EP in what strikes as unfinished form. “Heaven” evokes The Rapture’s elliptical dance-punk, although that band’s Luke Jenner anchors the sound much better out front, as Ounsworth’s enunciation is relatively forceless and meandering. Closing things out is “Once”, a Postal Service-like float in the vein of CYHSY’s “The Skin of My Country Yellow Teeth”. The track doesn’t get anywhere specific, instead petering out or altering direction before it accumulates much momentum. It feels weightless, and while CYHSY may have been aiming for that effect aesthetically or sonically, it’s unlikely they wanted the track to fade from memory as fast as it does.
Essential Tracks: “Only Run”