Tag Archives: folk

Video: Zusha, “King”

Ahead of the upcoming A Colorful World, Hasidic folk trio Zusha have released the album’s lead single and only their second video with “King” (aka “Melech”).

The artistically done video, directed by Jacob Blumberg and Bianca Giaever and starring Ma’ayan Chaya Sidof (daughter of filmmaker and Hevria columnist Yocheved Sidof), is said by the band to reflect “a young girl’s determination to discover her unique light”, as they note that “now [the month of Elul] more than ever is our most auspicious time to return to who we are.” The song’s sole lyric, a Hebrew verse meaning “We have no king but You“, comes from Avinu Malkeinu and is a recurring phrase in the High Holiday services.

As a song, “King” shows Zusha further evolving their sound from its acoustic jazz roots, incorporating subtle electronic elements and a darker, more introspective vibe, calling to mind indie-pop darlings like Lorde, Aurora, and even a softer Twenty One Pilots. Bonus points for the impossibly lush and beautiful outro.

A Colorful World drops September 4th. You can pre-order it on Amazon here.

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Ehud Banai and Michael Chapman release clip for “Angel” off joint album

Legendary Israeli folk rocker Ehud Banai has released a new music video for his song “Angel“, which also features British jazz/folk veteran Michael Chapman. The track is the lead single from Banai and Chapman’s new joint album EB=MC², which just released yesterday. You can find streaming links for the album here.

“Angel” makes a compelling case for the two artists uniting. Chapman is the obvious standout, delivering the song’s beautifully spiritual lyrics in a world-weary rasp that sounds like a cross between Tom Waits and the late great Leonard Cohen. (Really, the whole song sounds like it could be a lost track from Cohen’s final album.) Banai, meanwhile, provides a Hebrew verse and Mizrahi-style vocalizing that make a hauntingly perfect counterpoint to the song’s dark country feel, like Jo Amar guesting on a Johnny Cash song.

Zeke Finn releases new single “Under the Willow”

artworks-000237311962-w181g6-t500x500Hasidic alt-rapper Zeke Finn has released a new single entitled “Under the Willow“. The song was co-written and recorded with Finn’s longtime friend, singer-songwriter Avi Snow, while Finn’s father Mike Finn created the artwork.

“Under the Willow” is a dark, ethereal folk/soul ballad that, while not devoid of structure, eschews the typical verse/chorus format to create a drifting, dreamlike feel. The lyrics, which could be interpreted as a poetic telling of the Moses story (“Stay poised when your swimming upstream / Seems to me that you can be / The one who sets us free“), seem to revolve around ideas of being destined for greatness while trying to survive in an antagonistic world. There’s also a feeling of gritty persistence, as Finn repeats the refrain “Hold my breath, bite my tongue / Taste my blood, the work is never done“.

You can hear it on Soundcloud and Spotify below.

Yuval Sela Releases Bluesy New Album

Israeli artist Yuval Sela released his sophomore album Emunatcha Baleilot (Your Faithfulness At Night) last month. You can check out the title track, featuring Shachar Ariel, and the album on Spotify below.

Building on his debut, 2011’s folk-centric Yomim Tovim (Good Days), the new album sees Sela’s sound develop into a haunting blend of blues, country, and Middle Eastern. Over twanging guitars and shuffling drums, Sela rumbles out melancholic lyrics in a gravelly bass to rival the late Johnny Cash. The result is rich, deep, and sticks to the bones of the soul.

(h/t Ash at That’s Frum!?)

Mini-Review: Eviatar Banai, “Leshonot Shel Esh” (Flames)

Eviatar Banai has never been the type to stay in one spot musically. A member of one of Israel’s most prolific showbiz families, he spent the late ’90s transitioning between piano-driven chamber pop and moody experimental electronica, all the while exuding era-appropriate angst, alienation, and self-loathing – think Ben Folds meets Radiohead with a dash of Sting. But when he joined his cousin, folk rocker Ehud Banai, in becoming Orthodox in the early 2000s, not only did his lyrics start to take on a more spiritual sheen, but his subsequent two albums evolved his sound into a more conventional alternative rock setup. This approach brought him back into the Israeli mainstream, but had some of his old fans wondering if a devoutly religious family man could ever match the intensity of the angry young indie rocker he had once been.

Fortunately, over the past decade, Banai has managed to find compromise, both spiritually and musically. His last album, 2013’s Yafa Kalevana (Pretty as the Moon), brought him into a dreamy indie pop realm and revived his trademark instinct to question absolutely everything, even his own religious commitment. Leshonot Shel Esh (Flames), which just released this week, takes that framework and doubles down on it.

With production handled by Tamir Muskat of Balkan Beat Box, there are some truly sublime songs here. Opener “Or BaTzel” (Light in the Shadow) is indie folk just aching with bittersweet longing. The title track is a tense build to a mizrahi firebomb of a chorus. “Chotzim Et HaRechov” (Crossing the Street) has some of Banai’s most chillingly good vocals on record. “Achshav” (Now) and “Omes Yeter” (Overload) do an excellent job of blending somberness with urgency. And “Tamid Lifnei HaGeshem” (Always Before the Rain) is just plain beautiful.


Not everything lands, of course: “Pergola” (It’s An English Word, Look It Up) is fun and clever in its mockery of Banai’s public image but a bit too self-aware to really click; “Adam Nizrak” (Man Was Thrown) suffers from serious verse/chorus disconnect; “Ata” (You), another Banai duet with glam rocker Aviv Geffen, has a nice melody but is almost caveman-like in its lyrical simplicity. Really, much of the tail end of the album seems out of place, as if the songs were meant for a different album and just happened to end up here.

But overall, Banai gets more right than wrong here, and what he gets right is so beautifully well-crafted as to completely overshadow the missteps.

Leshonot Shel Esh is available to stream on Bandcamp (below) and Spotify, and can be purchased on Amazon and iTunes. You can also follow Eviatar Banai on his website and on Facebook.