Indie act Clap Your Hands Say Yeah won the blog-rock sweepstakes in 2005 when their self-produced, self-distributed debut album became a viral phenomenon. But a 2009 hiatus left lead singer Alec Ounsworth to his own devices, so he fled to New Orleans, where he recorded a solo album with some of the city’s finest: original Meters bassist George Porter Jr, Galactic drummer Stanton Moore and cats who go by names including Carnival Time and Washboard Chaz. Roots maestro Steve Berlin produced, ensuring a professional touch that’s anything but indie.
It’s hard to knock Ounsworth’s efforts. The bugged-out guitar and snaky bass-and-organ riffs on ‘Bones in the Grave’ prompt thoughts of Tom Waits, the same way Ounsworth’s pinched, theatrical vocal style echoes ‘Life on Mars’-era Bowie. But the fabulously eccentric arrangements, with their asymmetrical, lurching brass parts and marching-band percussion, balance the singer’s ethereal pitch with lusty rumble.
When the lyrics turn soulful, as on ‘When You’ve No Eyes’ and ‘Holy, Holy, Holy Moses (Song for New Orleans)’, Ounsworth is striving for cred as more than another kooky, latter-day art rocker. And when he’s not, he makes sure there’s a beat and you can dance to it.
Available now online.