YM (Yitzchok Meir Malek), an under-the-radar American-Israeli folksinger, has been making his mark this past week with several new releases and announcements.
First is his recently-released cover of the late Leonard Cohen‘s classic “Who By Fire“, timed for both the High Holidays and the recent string of natural disasters. The cover distinguishes itself by YM’s overlaid vocals, blending a Cohenesque low end with a Dylanesque high end, and by a featured performance from oudist Elyasaf Bashari.
He has also released a music video for his bouncy love ballad “Love Is Like A Bird“, produced by Daniel Goldstein and directed by Shlomo Weprin.
Both songs, as it happens, are heralds of the singer-songwriter’s upcoming debut album, Dear God, which is currently being crowdfunded on the Israeli site Headstart. The album’s planned title track is another cover, this one of “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)” by the supergroup Monsters of Folk. You can sample the album below and contribute here.
Originally from New York before moving to Jerusalem, YM was mentored by Grammy-winning guitarist C Lanzbom and cites among his influences Cohen, Dylan, Marley, Sinatra, and Carlebach. He has described his sound as “alternative rock meets R&B with a touch of pop” and “a classy and suave flirtation of jazzy flows and bluesy bass, peppered with the occasional ballad and campus quad acoustic.“
Esther S., a singer-songwriter and producer from Montreal, just released her new EP In The Fog last week through her label Softsonic. You can check it out below.
The EP is an alluring bit of indie-pop, full of ethereal keyboards and haunting harmonies. Lyrically, Esther S. doesn’t seem to wear her faith on her sleeve, but it’s easy to see the record’s theme of turning to a higher power in times of distress.
Esther S. (full name Esther Spiegelman) has had a long career in music. Besides for her previous solos (2014’s Home EP and the 2015 album Paper Planes), she has also performed with her brother Yankie as Lets Be Giants, as well as in the duo Bright September with Stephane Lorello.
Jerusalem-based rock band The Bar Papas are on the verge of releasing their debut album, Nesiya Tova (Good Journey), with the title track having just been released yesterday. This might sound somewhat surprising, given that both the band and the album have almost 20 years of history behind them.
The reason for this delay has less to do with laziness than with a Job-like string of misfortunes. You can read the long version on the band’s website here, but the short version is that founding members Amihai Zipoor and Shimshon Meir Frankel met at Yeshivat Darche Noam in 1998 and started jamming together. Despite building a local following on the strength of an amateur cassette recording and a self-titled studio demo, the early 2000s saw the group endure a revolving lineup, a venue closing down during the Second Intifada, and even a brief hiatus in 2005.
Even this new album, which began life in 2007 with the help of a city grant, has faced all manner of mishaps in coming to fruition: a glitch wiped out two days of material; the original producer backed out and had to be replaced, only for the replacement to unexpectedly relocate to another city; and constant money shortages made studio time and musicians hard to come by. This is to say nothing of incidents such as a labor strike, building renovations, canceled sessions, and even a guitar track that went missing at the last minute. It wasn’t until three years ago that the album was completed and given its wry name, with exhaustion and real life causing the band to hold off releasing it until this year.
So after all this time, is this new-old album worth checking out? That remains to be seen, but the songs released thus far show a lot of promise. Aside from some echoes of the Carlebach-influenced jam folk scene that spawned acts like Moshav Band and Reva L’Sheva, the Bar Papas primarily trade in retro-’60s pop rock and psychedelia that sounds like a mix between Simon & Garfunkel and Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. This is most prominently heard on song like “Ezri” and “Karev Yom“, while the title track shows sinister shades of ’90s alternative. These are the ingredients for a fun and distinctive sound, so here’s hoping that, in spite of all its setbacks, the album will successfully use them.
(H/T Blog in Dm)
Nu-metal outfit Atzmus, hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, recently gave their 2015 EP Ser Humano (To Be Human) a streaming release for American audiences. The re-release includes the bonus track “Insurgente” (Insurgent), which, along with the rest of the record, will be included on the group’s upcoming third album, also entitled Ser Humano.
Formed in late 2008, Atzmus (named for a Kabbalah term that translates as “Divine essence”), the band has released two prior albums, 2009’s Ciudad de Luz (City of Light) and 2013’s No Hay Mundo Sin Amor (There’s No World Without Love). In between, they have had considerable success in their home country, including a feature in the Argentine Rolling Stone, appearing in director Daniel Burman’s 2012 film La suerte en tus manos, and spots at La Trastienda Club and the Pepsi Music Festival.
In the aforelinked Rolling Stone piece, frontman Eliezer Barletta, himself a Hasidic Jew, responds to a question about the band’s spirituality: “[N]o one imposes anything on anyone. Sometimes we think that to develop concepts of union or peace between men we have to think all the same, believe all the same, but peace is not homogeneity...There may be men without religion but men can not [be] without love, because the basis and foundation of the world is love. And for that, as musicians we make songs with lyrics that invite reflection and inner development.”
Check out the title video from the EP below. RIYL: Demon Hunter, Disturbed, System of a Down, Orphaned Land.
(Hat tip to Ash at That’s Frum!? for the find.)