by Eef Barzelay is a solo acoustic record by the singer/songwriter of Clem Snide. The record is made up of two chapters.
Chapter One opens with "The Ballad of Bitter Honey", a song that initially sounds like an ironic take on the life of a hip-hop video vixen. But the only irony is that its bespectacled Barzelay singing it. As in many of Barzelays songs the sniggers are quickly undercut with tenderness and self examination. The next four songs lead us from cruelty to empathy and all the crippled places in-between.
Chapter Two, called "Let Us Be Naked", mines similar emotional territory yet also abandons itself to a rousing not-drunken sing-along, a one minute and eight second valentine, and possibly the most heartbreaking version of "Joy to the World ever done.
With just his voice, his words, and an acoustic guitar Barzelay further confirms the rumor that he is one of the most uniquely talented songwriters around.
What's the difference between an Eef solo album and a Clem Snide set? If Bitter Honey
is any evidence, then the difference is simply the extra characters. Peripatetic across his many narrative characters, Barzelay shifts shapes continuously. He starts as a "press my breasts together and arch my back" groupie hanging out with Ludacris and Nelly. And he moves through a lo-fi voiced, a.m. radio singer meditating on love and beauty. He's a minimalist here, finger-picking solemnly, and a declarative, empathizing outcast when the object of his affection is outdrinking him ("You see I wasn't really drunk, I was just pretending / Because I wanted so much to feel the way you do," Barzelay intones on "I Wasn't Really Drunk"). You'd buy this album for the same reason you buy Robyn Hitchcock, for the observations, sardonic-ism, and sarcasm--not to mention Eef's singular, strained voice. -Andrew Bartlett