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Eef Barzelay and his partners in Clem Snide have decided not to break up the band after all, despite previous reports that they'd called it a day, and on their first album in four years, Hungry Bird, in most respects they've picked up right where they left off. The poppier and more uptempo side of Clem Snide has been left by the wayside, and Hungry Bird features ten gentle, curiously impressionistic tales of the difficult side of life and love, supported by the gentle but splendidly well-crafted interplay of the band (especially Pete Fitzpatrick on guitar and Tony Hamel on keyboards), while Barzelay's vocals -- suggesting Loudon Wainwright III's slightly twitchy nephew -- are an inspired vehicle for his slightly off-kilter world-view. The tone of the album is measured enough that the power chords that emerge midway through "The Endless Feelings" come as something of a shock, and given the tougher textures of Barzelay's 2008 solo effort, Lose Big, the subtle dynamics of this set are something of a surprise, reflecting the more refined approach of these songs, though Barzelay's trademark eccentricity rises to the surface on "Beard of Bees" and "Pray," and "Encounter at 3 AM," with the band creating a musical backdrop for a spoken word piece by Franz Wright, is a powerful and disarming performance. Hungry Bird is the work of a gentler (if not really kinder) Clem Snide, but if the volume has been turned down a few points, the vision and talent that made this band worthwhile are essentially unchanged, and it's good news indeed that Barzelay hasn't abandoned such sympathetic collaborators in favor of a solo career.