Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Welcome to the Flavorwire Artist Playlist, a new monthly series in which we ask musical personalities to curate playlists on any topic of their choosing. We kick things off with 12 songs from Alec Ounsworth, the leader of longtime indie rock staples Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, who release their fourth album, Only Run, this week. Ounsworth offers up tracks from albums that inspired his band’s new LP, ranging from icons like Brian Eno and Sly and the Family Stone to the modern psych-rock of Tame Impala and MGMT (thanks in part to a shared producer in Dave Fridmann).
Paul Simon — “The Coast”
I rewrote the song “Blameless” several times trying to achieve that sing-speak fluidity that Paul Simon does so well, and (I think) arrived at on Graceland. It’s not really a new concept, of course (Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello, etc.), but I imagine I borrowed more from Mr. Simon than I did from the others on this one.
Nick Cave — “Brompton Oratory”
I first heard this album about 15 years ago. Like Sly and the Family Stone (and maybe Prince), for some songs on the new album I wanted to use the drum machine as a static guide and let the vocals drift atop this and synths with the occasional guitar, piano, etc. cutting through.
Tindersticks — “Harmony Around My Table”
I have always appreciated Tindersticks but hadn’t heard this album (Falling Down a Mountain) until a recent driving tour I took alone through Europe. I listened on the Autobahn traveling at about 90 mph. When this one came on, I hit 94!
MGMT — “Cool Song No.2”
This is a great song from a band that Dave Fridmann [who produced Only Run] works with. Before going up to Dave’s (for the second album and this one, the fourth), I do my homework to see where his head might be and what new toys he might have in his arsenal. I think this was what he did shortly before we got up there and is my favorite album of the three that these guys have put together. I like the name too. Fuck it. It is a cool song.
Brian Eno — “Dead Finks Don’t Talk”
Another cool song. I don’t know what to say about it. This album (Here Come the Warm Jets) influenced Clap Your Hands’ aesthetic more than any other. “You’re so perceptive and I wonder how you knew.”
Blue Nile — “Let’s Go Out Tonight”
I think [musician/producer/Los Lobos member] Steve Berlin turned me on to this album. I had heard Blue Nile before this but really dug in with this record. I cover this song now. It has the same dark, magical feeling that for example, Richard and Linda Thompson’s “I Want to See The Bright Lights Tonight” has. I find these songs the most attractive. I always have.
Robert Wyatt — “Forest”
This is a song I really like from one of my favorite musicians. I don’t know what else to say. Brian Eno makes an appearance.
Sly and the Family Stone — “Thankful N’ Thoughtful”
Like Nick Cave (also Stereolab and Prince, especially on Sign o’ The Times), I was interested in using the drum machine as a static, artificial support to be cut with natural instruments. Regarding the song itself, I appreciate that Sly was trying to keep it together in this strange album made during what I understand was a fairly dark period for him.
John Lennon — “Remember”
I really like what Lennon does with his vocals on his solo albums. I think he’s going for the delay that Elvis used on most everything. I understand he was not very happy with his voice. Other good singers (e.g. Jimi Hendrix) have felt this way and taken steps to work out of it. This one works for Lennon. Great song too! Love the explosion at the end.
Tame Impala — “Elephant”
Tame Impala’s Lonerism was another album I bought (certainly had to get this and MGMT on vinyl) in preparation for working with Dave. There’s a lot of great work on this one. It reminds me of many things but that doesn’t mean it’s not unique. I love the “here it comes” bit.
The Go-Betweens — “A Bad Debt Follows You”
It’s still one of my fondest memories opening for The Go-Betweens (in 2004?) at the Mercury Lounge. This is one of my favorite true bands. This is a great song from Before Hollywood. In any case, at this show I came to understand truly that there’s no accounting for taste. In my mind, The Go-Betweens should have been playing Madison Square Garden band and here they were playing a half-sold show at Mercury Lounge (great venue, by the way, but still). It amazes me now that I was so surprised. I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now, etc.
Stereolab — “Olv 26”
This is one that comes up in practice quite a bit. As in, it should sound a bit more like this — a good precedent on a great album (Emperor Tomato Ketchup).