Taking less time to return than they did between 2007's Some Loud Thunder and 2011's, Hysterical, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah nonetheless seem like they've taken quite a journey when you listen to 2014's Only Run. Touted as a change in direction, primarily due to the band's heavier use of keyboards than on past recordings, Only Run is also the first album CYHSY recorded since parting ways with longtime members Robbie Guertin and Tyler Sargent in 2012. Rather than look for new members, lead singer/songwriter Alec Ounsworth and drummer Sean Greenhalgh forged onward as a duo (plus a few guest musicians), with Ounsworth handling all the guitar, keyboard, accordion, and vocal duties, and Greenhalgh tackling the percussion and synth programming. The result is that Only Run is less a wholly new direction and more a balance between the art-rock experimentation of their 2005 debut and the dance-oriented, post-punk sound of Hysterical. In fact, as with past recordings, many of the cuts on Only Run, like "As Always" and "Coming Down," which features a spoken word appearance by the National's Matt Berninger, are moody yet driving rockers built around Ounsworth's literate, ruminative croon. That said, there is a centered, focused quality to many of the tracks on Only Run, as if the departure of Guertin and Sargent freed Ounsworth up to fully explore the sounds in his own head. Musically, Ounsworth and Greenhalgh also strike a pleasing balance, mixing fuzzy sonic electric guitars and pounding drums, which they then set against abrupt acoustic piano lines and mathematical synths. The result is an album of beautiful juxtapositions, steeped with poetic gravitas that nonetheless never fails soar.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar