20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews Alec Ounsworth’s Mo Beauty by JohnCassillo

The Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman delivers a solid solo debut

The Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman delivers a solid solo debut

PREVIEW: DOWNLOAD “That Is Not My Home (After Bruegel)” MP3
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts

After the misstep that was Clap Your Hands Say Yeah‘s sophomore album, some questioned the staying power of the band, as well as the abilities of frontman Alec Ounsworth. Would he, and the group, disappear just as quickly as the hype that brought them to the masses back in 2005?

Enter 2009. Though the band has shown up on our radar in spots, it’s Ounsworth who is attempting to firmly entrench himself in our everyday consciousness. Between collaborative side project Flashy Python, and now this, his solo debut, he’s persistent if nothing else. But what Mo Beauty seems to possess more than anything he’s put out since 2005 is pure, untainted emotion.

A relaxed mix of his familiar indie rock and piano ballads, Mo Beauty appears to be Ounsworth’s attempt to get every thought he’s ever had about life and love out into open space. Between the lyrics themselves, and the alternately calm and hectic backgrounds he creates, every track seems to paint a sea of conflicting emotions and ideas. Though he never professes as much, Ounsworth seems to know nothing, and everything all at once, staring at the world around him through more lenses than he cares to comprehend.

But at least he’s honest. When he’s constructing an off-kilter falling-off-the-wagon melody, such as “Bones in the Grave,” he does so unabashedly. Same goes for when he digresses into a barroom rant, as he executes expertly on “Idiots in the Rain,” amidst sadness and desperation.

Still, with those more depressing themes in mind, there are some upbeat, almost fun moments to take in as well. “That Is Not My Home (After Bruegel)” is a shameless pop number, and one of the most enjoyable things Ounsworth has ever recorded. The same case can also be made for “South Philadelphia (Drug Days),” which mixes an inner-city vibe with a vacation aesthetic to create a drugged, elated trance of a song.

Perhaps getting back to basics on a solo album will allow Ounsworth to do the same with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, should they record another studio effort. Obviously, he still knows how to write emotional, as well as catchy tunes, so I suppose we’ll just wait to see what the future holds.

— John Cassillo

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