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.“
Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Mikhal (Mikhal Weiner) has released a colorful stop-motion video for her song “Clouds“, off her debut album, Daughter of the Sea, which released in May. You can check out the video below.
Born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel, Weiner is a classically-trained composer, having studied at both Rimon College in Israel and Berklee College in Boston, and her classical pieces have been performed by the likes of Ehud Ettun, the Esterhazy Quartet, and the ALEA III Chamber Orchestra. Her album blends her classical background with folk, funk, pop, grunge, and spoken word, influenced by artists like Ani DiFranco, Joni Mitchell, Aaron Copland and Bjork, with lyrics ranging from abstract poetry to scathing social commentary.
Daughter of the Sea can be purchased on Mikhal’s website, as well as on iTunes and Amazon, and is available to stream on Soundcloud and Spotify.
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)
Jerusalem-based indie-electro artist SuperFunkBox has released a new track entitled “Prayer” to his ReverbNation page. The song itself is a heady blend of Mediterranean melody, fuzzed-out industrial-style beat, and vocals that range from ghostly wailing to forceful rapping. You can check it out below.
SuperFunkBox is the downtempo brainchild of Ron Isaiah, a multi-instrumentalist and independent TV producer who relocated to Israel from Orlando, Florida. He has released four records since 2013, including his most recent album ScrubScribe, which came out in February and is available on Bandcamp. You can also find his music on Soundcloud and YouTube.
British-Israeli folk/soul duo The Portnoy Brothers (Sruli and Mendy Portnoy) have released a new song in honor of Yom Yerushalayim. Titled “A Love Song For Jerusalem“, the song is a jazz/R&B cover of Naomi Shemer’s classic “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (Jerusalem of Gold). The video, filmed and edited by Basti Hansen, has various residents of the land holding signs that convey what Jerusalem means to them. (One gentleman hilariously replies with “Beer”.)
The Portnoy Brothers, originally from Manchester, made their mark last year with their Indiegogo-funded debut album Learn to Love, one of my personal favorite Jewish albums of 2016. Since that album’s release, they have collaborated with Alex Clare on a series of acoustic videos from his last album and are now in the midst of their “A Beatle A Day” cover series on Facebook.