Clem Snide

Soft Spot

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Clem Snide has crafted another gem with the band's fourth album, Soft Spot. Released in 2001, The Ghost of Fashion was one of the best releases of that year, and while this record may not quite reach that level, it is a strong document of a band at the top of its game. It is also a record by a band that has gone through some changes. Apart from a couple of songs like "Action," a country-rock stomper with harmonica and bells and typically smart and funny Eef Barzelay lyrics, and the horn-driven, punchy "Happy Birthday," Soft Spot is a quiet record. Barzelay's intimate vocals are surrounded by gently strummed guitars and subtle orchestrations of keyboards and glockenspiels concocted by Jason Glasser. Tunes like the heartbreakingly melancholic album opener, "Forever, Now and Then," "Find Love," and the prayer-like "Fontanelle" are Clem Snide's most personal-sounding songs to date, as Barzelay casts aside the distance his witty lyrics creates and writes from the heart. Sure, he still drops in a few lyrical jaw-droppers like "Lip-sync me a melody so sweet and clear/Mouth the words of love like a feather in my ear" from the bossa nova-inflected "Tuesday, October 24th" and "half Jewish boys makes kick ass drummers" from the hilarious "Happy Birthday," but much of the album seems to be moving toward American Music Club territory, where emotionally bare, exceedingly adult music that really grabs your heartstrings and gives them a good yank is the order of the day. Eef Barzelay isn't quite as gloomy as Mark Eitzel yet, and probably never will be. For that and for his amazingly quirky yet effective vocal delivery, listeners should be thankful -- and they should also be thankful that Clem Snide has delivered in the clutch yet again.

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