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Last Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006, 08:31 GMT
Sound of 2006: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
By Ian Youngs
BBC News entertainment reporter

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
US indie darlings Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are runners-up in the BBC News website's Sound of 2006 new music poll.

More than 100 UK music critics and broadcasters were asked to name their favourite new artists for the survey. The winner and full top 10 will be revealed on Friday.

When the internet first reached the masses, the talk in those innocent early days was of how this new medium would be instrumental in making and breaking new bands.

It has taken a little longer than expected, but that prediction is finally coming true.

Brooklyn-based five-piece Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are one of the first bands to truly ride the web surf and be carried into the mainstream on a wave of online acclaim.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah signed to Bloc Party's label in the UK
It all started when bassist Tyler Sargent began mailing copies of their self-released, self-titled debut album from his apartment six months ago.

A trickle of orders became a flow as influential alternative websites and bloggers began picking up on their offbeat, jubilant and incomprehensible charm.

They soon became favourites among web name-droppers and the band struggled to cope with demand as the album's sales reached 40,000. All without a record deal.

As more people were converted to their cause, the band set up distribution deals to give their CD a wider US release and signed with UK indie label Wichita, home of Bloc Party, for a British release.

Comparisons have centred on quirky post-punk band Talking Heads and many expect them to follow The Arcade Fire's route of achieving a devoted following and critical adoration through word-of-mouth success.

People mention to me that my voice is unusual, they mention that a lot of people are listening - I stay out of it
Alec Ounsworth
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

One of the band's most distinctive features is singer Alec Ounsworth's euphoric nasal yelp, which is sure to attract those who like their music to be a little unusual - and repel those who do not.

Ounsworth appears to be vaguely aware that his band are beginning to gain a large following, but seems keen to remain in the eye of the storm and take little notice of the surrounding hype.

Asked how he feels about the internet buzz, he simply says: "It's a small world, I guess. It gets smaller every day.

"I don't really feel one way or another. Mainly I'm told about things like this.

"People mention to me that my voice is unusual, they mention that a lot of people are listening. I stay out of it."

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
The band are playing a UK tour in February
Other than playing in bigger venues in different countries, he says the things that have changed are "relatively invisible to me".

But he must have noticed when indie website Pitchfork gave them a glowing review in June and Tyler Sargent's out tray became overburdened with CDs to be dispatched.

"I did notice that more people were asking for the album, absolutely," he says.

"That was happening progressively. Pitchfork was one in a series of catalysts that were surprising and we greatly appreciated. It's important that people gain access if they want to and if they can understand it."

If an artist is not surprised by their own success "then I think things have become a bit too formulaic", he says.

"In the end, you're hoping that the songs might be shared and you're flattered and should consider yourself lucky if they are taken as something of value to other people, but you can never expect that."

If things keep going at the same pace and Ounsworth finds the storm engulfing him, he says he would probably not be comfortable with fame.

"Everybody's heard bits and pieces of stories of people who've gotten to a certain point and were uncomfortable to the point of devastation and tragedy," he says.

But some of his heroes - such as Tom Waits, Lou Reed and Bob Dylan - have shown that fame and integrity need not cancel each other out.

"If you can take these examples and see what they've done to keep a good head through the years, then you have a good precedent."

  • The Sound of 2006 survey was compiled from the tips of more than 100 impartial music critics and broadcasters, who were asked to give the names of their favourite three new artists. The acts with the most tips were then ranked to compile the Sound of 2006 list.

    Listen to In This Home On Ice by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

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