A hauntingly gorgeous contradiction in terms
On his first solo effort, the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman continues his enthusiastic experiments with strange sound combinations. He’s pensive these days—mellow and introverted—and his self-questioning lyrics are matched with a fittingly eerie sound. The album is well conceived with articulate themes running throughout, as when Ounsworth laments the fall of New Orleans in “Holy, Holy, Holy Moses” and then later channels the city’s brass-laden funeral marches into the dirt-smudged “Idiots in the Rain.” Ounsworth’s resounding use of strings, horns, piano and percussion appears and disappears at unexpected moments with beautifully unsettling results. But his chaotic sonic messes are somehow always under control (note how the clanging cymbals align with the taut vocals on “Bones in the Grave”). Mo Beauty is an album full of idiosyncrasies, but Ounsworth’s consummate eye to its construction turns dissonance into harmony.