"With Nothing Much To Show Of It"
"We Are Flowers"
Eef Barzelay has released a long string of albums in a wide variety of settings and configurations: He's been a solo act, sure, but he's better known as the leader of Clem Snide, a band with a revolving cast of supporting players and a sound that meanders around the outskirts of rock, alt-country and folk to the point where it's senseless to place it in any category at all. It's hard to believe that 2000's soothing art-country masterpiece Your Favorite Music and 2008's strangely apocalyptic prog-folk gem Hungry Bird are by the same band, until Barzelay's Kermit-the-Frog croon pops up at the center of each one.
As a general rule, Barzelay doesn't get enough credit: He may be the most underrated songwriter in the business today, with a sneakily firm grasp on poignancy and humor, and his live performances convey a kind of awkwardly fidgety fearlessness. He's a disarming performer: He can seem above it all, until he hits an emotionally devastating kill shot when listeners least expect it.
Earlier this year, Clem Snide released The Meat of Life, an album represented in this four-song Tiny Desk Concert by the resigned "With Nothing Much to Show of It" and the doubly resigned "Denver," in which Barzelay issues a grim confession that's all the more heartbreaking for the way it lands like a punch line. And, of course, he balances out the new with the old, tossing in the slinky "Something Beautiful" and an old, unreleased charmer called "We Are Flowers," which pays tribute to peace and love without locating a single cliché. Just like Barzelay to hit a sweet spot where no one is expecting it.