Clap Your Hands Say Yeah first garnered attention for earning enough of a fan base on the Internet to successfully release their first self-titled album in 2005, even though they were unsigned. For their third full-length album, Hysterical, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah returns in collaboration with producer JohnCongleton, who has worked with musicians ranging from Rogue Wave to R. Kelly. The result is an album that stays true to CYHSY’s original synth-y sound; long-time fans will not be disappointed.

The apparent driving factor for most of the lyrics seems to be a gnarly breakup, with lead singer AlecOunsworth lamenting about being used, getting screwed over and resolving not to let it happen again. Whoever this chick is, she clearly left them hysterical.

The album kicks off with “Same Mistake,” a low-key opener that sets the stage for an album dedicated to heartbreak. Ounsworth’s vocals call to mind Julian Casablancas’ droll lack of articulation, but he still manages to effectively convey his feelings. With the frenetic “Hysterical,” the album starts to fall into a pattern of consistently alternating between fast (read: happy) and slow (read: depressing)

“Misspent Youth” is four minutes of straight up beauty: aching nostalgia, literary references (“And my Ophelia does not drown / she just barely hangs on”), and soft piano with steel guitar. If you are really missing an ex, make sure you have a box of Kleenex on hand when you listen to this.

After such an emotional song, “Maniac” and “Into Your Alien Arms” pick up the pace. The latter features an instrumental interlude, perhaps as a shout-out to solely instrumental songs from earlier albums.

“In a Motel” opens with acoustic guitar, unraveling the happy lull of the previous two songs. With lyrics like “But the ghost that comes around is a dead ringer for her / I see her in my nightmares,” it’s easy to feel the anguish.

It’s time to recover again with “Yesterday, Never.” Just don’t listen to the lyrics too closely, as the happy keyboard and peppy kick drum disguise Ounsworth’s complaints about being steamrolled by an ex.

Had enough of the emotional roller coaster? No? Great!  “Siesta (For Snake)” includes cheery lyrics like “You just called me up to tell me you’re gone / when I already know you couldn’t stand it any longer”.Hysterical‘s sole dance tune is “Ketamine and Ecstasy” (Club drugs? Coincidence?), which includes a shout-out to 80s synth band Eurythmics.

This Category 5 hurricane of swirling emotions — I mean, album — closes with the solid “The Witness’ Dull Surprise” and “Adam’s Plane”. If you can get past the pain funneled into Hysterical (which is a very apt name), the album is musically substantial. CYHSY tends to disregard the typical verse/chorus/verse structure, so the music doesn’t become boring upon repetition.

A wide range of instruments keeps each song unique, but the ever-present kick drum reminds you that you’re listening to CYHSY. Give this album a listen —even if you haven’t had a bad breakup.

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