Hungry Bird, completed three years ago but just released in February, is a quietly triumphant reintroduction for Clem Snide, the Brooklyn-turned-Nashville band that spun more than a decade of charms from the quirky and clever songwriting of Eef Barzelay.
Never fitting in with the conventional alt-country scene, Clem Snide has stripped those elements completely from Hungry Bird, a lush and slow album that unfolds with a sadness draped across all 10 songs.
It's easy to see how the recording of Hungry Bird marked a new direction for the band's front man, with this release coming on the heels of two Barzelay solo records. Careful, quiet and beautiful, Hungry Bird drops some of the playfulness of Clem Snide's previous albums, revealing songs with a different sort of intensity.
From the jittery paranoia of the album's swirling opening track, "Me No," Hungry Bird sounds almost like a soundtrack album, with an overall moodiness that rests in every song. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Franz Wright guests for the spoken-word "Encounter at 3 a.m.," a late-night noir that only heightens the cinematic feel of the album.
Several of Hungry Bird's songs are among the best Barzelay has ever written or recorded, and the album has a remarkable cohesiveness, but longtime fans may find themselves wishing the band would've offered up just one more up-tempo, rocking centerpiece song like "I Love the Unknown," "Moment in the Sun" or "End of Love."