Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased tracks, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on The Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is Eef Barzelay performing Terri Tarantula’s “Shaker Star” from the 2011 self-released EP Black Tin Rocket.
Whether he’s recording under his own name or with his band Clem Snide, Eef Barzelay is unmistakeable and unique. Through all the lineup changes, Eef has remained prolific, and his many dedicated fans have been loyal since 1999’s Your Favorite Music if not Clem Snide’s 1998 debut, You Were a Diamond. On this new EP, though, Eef takes a different tact and records a handful of songs written by someone else, namely by Terri Moeller and Paul Austin of Seattle’s own Transmissionary Six and Terri Tarantula.
The collaboration between the two wasn’t originally intended to result in an EP. At first, T6’s Paul Austin had responded to Eef’s offering on his website to record, for a very reasonable fee, a song performed by himself. Says Austin:
I got in touch with Eef and asked him to record one of Terri’s songs, as a surprise for her since she’s a huge fan. He did, and we were both knocked out by how great he is solo acoustic — really dynamic. He mentioned a couple of times along the way how much he enjoyed doing his thing with the song, and a few weeks later he got back in touch with the idea of doing an EP that we’d float out there for people. And of course we said “okay!”
But how does Eef’s typical dryly ironic voice fare on the relatively more earnest lyrics of Transmissionary Six? Quite well, actually. It’s easy to neglect the fact that underneath Barzelay’s deadpan delivery, witty lyrics, and surface-level cynicism, lie a wonder, a childlike amusement, and quite a bit of heartbreak, all of which come through even on albums with smirky titles like Lose Big and Meat of Life. For every jab outward are two cuts within, and it’s this tension that keeps Eef’s fans coming back for more and that transforms the songs of Transmissionary Six. Says Moeller:
The first time [I heard them], I was pretty stunned, because I listen to Clem Snide and his solo records all the time. There was a moment where it was very surreal; I couldn’t process hearing my words come out of Eef Barzelay’s mouth. It was, like, “How did THOSE get in THERE?”
Today’s featured song is Eef’s take on “Shaker Star,” which first appeared on Terri Tarantula‘s self-titled debut. Whereas the original song — inspired by Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3 drummer Linda Pitmon, who plays “killer shaker” on their song “Death Valley Rain” — has a dreamy yet playful quality to it, Eef’s stripped down version is plaintive and more emotionally exacting, like a bittersweet reminiscence of times past.
You can listen to more of Eef Barzelay’s interpretations of the songs by Transmissionary Six and Terri Tarantula on Eef’s Bandcamp page and purchase the whole thing for a mere $4. And check out the title track to the EP in this homemade video: