I’ll preface the review with some important background information.
I know I keep bragging about how I briefly met CHYSY singer Alec Ounsworth at The Fire in 2003 and got his demo, but it’s important to the story. His lo-fi demo with the all-time-cheesey casio drum beats ended up getting played in my car about 1000 times over the next few years. I wanted to invite Alec to the treehouse open mic, but I couldn’t read the email address he wrote on the CD-R. A few years passed and one day I downloaded a few tracks from Stereogum. One of the tracks was CYHSY’s Tidal Wave, which was later named “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood.” I really dug the song and thought the singer sounded familiar so I looked it up and sure enough, Alec Ounsworth was in the band. I added myself to their mailing list and waited for them to come to philly. A few weeks passed and they seemed to only be playing shows in NY.
At some point I started reading about them a lot on music blogs such as irockiroll and others. Pitchfork’s 4 star review for the track, In This Home on Ice, must have blown everything up because after that I swear I haven’t heard of this much hype about a band since Gearge Carlin raved about Wyld Stallions in 1989. David Bowie stopped by one of their gigs, Pitchfork and others threw them near perfect reviews and the rest will probably be history.
The point of all this is that it actually seems possible for a band to succeed the Right Way. You can go from open mic performer to rock critic favorite in less than two years. There wasn’t any company paying people to call up radio stations or plaster the city with flyers. It was just a group of guys who played good music that was heard and written about by people online.
So is the album any good? Yes and I think it’s going to be the best CD of the year. Read on to find out why.The album starts out with an odd carnival style number as if Alec is pestering you to try and ring the bell. It’s the album’s worst song and I still gave it 4 stars on my iTunes playlist rating.
Much has been said of what they sound like. The best description I can come up with is this. Alec sings like David Byrne with a voice like Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes. The music has the same, slow building drum style as the Arcade Fire but the guitars repetitively swims along. It’s catchy but interesting.
Highlights are The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth, Upon this Tidal Wave of Young Blood, and Heavy Metal, which was the only song from his demo that made the album. The CYHSY version is completely sped up from the verison I’m used to and it’s great.
The lyrics move in and out of focus as the pitch in Alec’s voice bounces around each song. It wasn’t until I read the liner notes that I realized he was saying “we have nothing left to fear now that Bigfoot is captured” in Upon this Tidal Wave of Youngblood. Hah.
The thing that will shock you the most about this album is how short it is. With only 38 minutes of music you’ll find yourself constantly back at the first track. I love that they didn’t throw a lesser track in there to clog up the pipes and the result is an album without any weak spots.