Album review: Alec Ounsworth – ‘Mo Beauty’

Engaging debut from the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman

The ripples from [a]Clap Your Hands Say Yeah[/a]’s stonking 2005 self-titled debut album have long since lapped against the indie pool’s edge, and it’s fair to say the Brooklyn troupe are displaying the advanced stages of ‘Spinto Band Syndrome’. You know: skinny college-goon types launch student union-slaying semi-breakthrough album over the Atlantic then follow-up with a less spectacular effort. The previously confident strides stick in the gloop of mediocrity, sinking until eventually, when the nostrils finally plop under, there are barely enough people interested to hear their final exhalation of relevance.

But proverbially grasping a vine, attaching it to the back of a horse then giving Dobbin’s buttock an almighty thwack is CYHSY frontman Alec Ounsworth with this debut solo album. It’s a challenging, warm if understated effort destined to thunk into the indie solo album dartboard somewhere between [a]Julian Casablancas[/a] and Duncan from [a]Maximo Park[/a].

Produced by Steve Berlin in New Orleans, [b]‘Mo Beauty’[/b] sees Ounsworth build his own mini-orchestra, swooshing up piano jingles against [a]Lambchop[/a] pedal-steel shimmers. As it is with CYHSY, the sticking point for most will be his divisive voice – to some a deft, note-diving Wainwright-esque wonder, to others the whine-moan of an alley cat that’s just swallowed a fishbone too big for its throat. But really, with so much interesting clatter going on here it rarely sounds overly intrusive. Especially in the second half, where [b]‘South Philadelphia (Drug Days)’[/b] and [b]‘What Fun’[/b] turning an interesting record into something truly stirring. In fact, tie some hideous Jerry Seinfeld trainers on his feet and we’ve almost got the new [a]Sufjan Stevens[/a].

[b]Jamie Fullerton[/b]

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Click here to get your copy of Alec Ounsworth’s ‘Mo Beauty’ from the Rough Trade shop.