Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Five More A Capella Songs You May Have Missed (by Ash)

(Originally posted by Ash on That's Frum!?)

During sefira, I wrote a post "The Top 12 Acapella Songs You Never Heard". The response to the post was huge. The article received over 600 views, a shoutout on Yossi Zweig's Z Report, and was reposted on Yidwise. I also received many passionate responses from my readers (almost all saying "well why didn't you include this song" or some variant thereof). So here comes part two: five more songs I missed in the first article that deserved to be included.

1) Meir Green - "Nekudah Shel Ohr"

I first heard this song on the Z Report this past sefira and I fell in love with it. The lyrics are inspirational, the tune is great, and amazingly for an Israeli vocal single, the a capella arrangements are superb. Although most Israeli acapella songs usually sound like 'charah', this one has great harmonies and computerized effects that let me enjoy it again and again.

2) Y-Studs - "Don't Let Me Down" 

This song doesn't really belong on this list, because there's a good chance you heard it before. But its such a good song I felt it's worth including, even if I did have to retitle the list to you may have missed. The Y-studs had been considered YU's second-tier to the Maccabeats; merely kid brothers to the real game in town (whew mixed metaphor alert!). But with their single/music video "Don't Let Me Down", a cover of the Chainsmokers song of the same name, the Y-Studs showed that not only can they hold a candle to their senior counterparts, they can actually surpass them in their own way. "Don't Let Me Down" is where we see the Y-Studs finally stopping to compete and instead focus on their own unique style - with excellent results.

3) Yehuda Glantz - "Eshet Chayil"

When my good friend AY told me to check out Yehuda Glantz's a capella tracks I was surprised. "Yehuda Glantz has a capella tracks?" I asked him. He replied that, yes indeed, he did and pointed me to "Eshet Chayil". You see, Yehuda Glantz is one of my favorite Jewish artists, as he's an original soul who feels no pressure to cave into contemporary styles and instead focuses on music he himself likes - with amazing results. This often results in him foreshadowing a trend many years before anyone else. Such is the case with his  capella tracks. Back in 1996, way before it became trendy to make an a capella track and way way before it became trendy to actually make it sound good, Glantz had already released two a capella tracks that sound like they could have been released this year. "Eshet Chayil", off the album Rak Litzok El Hashem, is one of them. (The other being "Yasis".)

4) Udi Damari - "Tzok Eitan"

If you've read my other articles, you know I hate Israeli a capella singles. But Udi Damari, who produced Gil Nagar's single "Ata Elokai" (see my previous list) and the fairly decent "Ivri Anochi", also released a vocal version of his own song "Tzok Eitan", and had I heard it before my previous article, it would've made the cut. In fact, its so good, the first time I heard it I thought I misclicked on the music version instead! This song, which reminds the Arabs that Hashem has our back, is especially appropriate considering the current situation in Israel.

5) Kol Achai - "Naar Hayiti"

Before there was a capella, there was Kol Achai. Way back in the early history of Jewish music, before Six13, before Beatachon, even before MBD, Kol Achai was already making acapella songs. A reader felt that it's tantamount to sacrilege to make an acapella list lacking Kol Achai, and I had to agree. "Naar Hayiti" is off their album Halleu.

BONUS: Dudi Fuchs & Neranenu Choir - "Da Ki Yesh Sudeh"

Those who follow Jewish music know that there is currently a deluge of chassidic choirs featuring 'yeled hapeleh's. But this song, a cover of Levy Falkowitz's "Da Ki Yesh Sadeh", caught my ear.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Benny Friedman and Meir Kay chart "Evolution of Jewish Music"

Possibly inspired by the Pentatonix "Evolution of Music" video, Benny Friedman and YouTube producer Meir Kay have created their own tribute to the long history of Jewish popular music, extending from the 1920s to now. Besides for Kay and Friedman, the project also utilizes the talents of director Mendy Leonorvitz of On Time Studios, co-producer Sruly Meyer, composer Avrumi Berko, and Danny Flam's New York Brass, among others.

What's really impressive about the video is the range of songs implemented. Not only do they acknowledge historically important forefathers like Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt and the late R' Benzion Shenker, but they also don't shy away from the more unconventional hits one might expect them to overlook. (Even Black Hattitude gets a nod - yeah, give yourself some time to remember that one.) And while not all of the impressions are spot-on (Moshav Band, Blue Fringe, and Matisyahu are especially iffy), anyone who's had to sit through a HASC concert will certainly find joy in the good-natured takedowns of some of the event's more eccentric performers (renditions of Shwekey's "Rachem" and Miami Boys Choir's "Lo Yisa Goy" are particularly spot-on and satisfying).

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Moshe Nerya Korsia releases new single "Tatzil Oti"

Israeli singer/songwriter Moshe Nerya Korsia has released his new single "Tatzil Oti" (You Save Me). The track, written by Korsia and produced and arranged by Reuven Chiyun, is the fourth single from his upcoming debut album.

Gil Israelov releases new single "Shar Shirech"

Jerusalem-based Hasidic singer Gil Israelov recently released his new single "Shar Shirech" (Sings Your Songs), an orchestral ballad devoted to his home city. Israelov wrote the lyrics while Motti Rotler composed the track; the two have previously recorded as part of the Yedidim Choir.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Amram Adar releases new clip "Rabi Nachman"

Miami-based recording artist Amram Adar, currently working on the follow-up to his 2013 debut Baruch Hashem, has released a new video for his single "Rabi Nachman". And as you might suspect from that title, the track, written by Itzik Shamli and produced by Tamir Zur, is an electro-pop dance song.

The video, filmed in Miami Beach with director Yaron Nativ, depicts a man finding solace in the message of the titular Rav after being fired from his job, as well as what seems to be a West Side Story-esque dance fight between Breslov Hasidim and Miami gang members. The press blurb quotes Adar as saying the clip "contains a tremendous message to all, that only happily can we survive in this crazy world of 2017".

Yossi Lebowitz to debut with "Kchoichvei Hashomayim" (+ Hot Take)

Frum-pop newcomer Yossi Lebowitz recently released a sampler for his debut album, Kchoichvei Hashomayim (Stars of Heaven), which will be distributed digitally and through MRM Music sometime in the next week. It will reportedly feature arrangements from the likes of Yisroel Lamm, Ian Freitor, Eli Gerstner, and others.

And now for a Hot Take: The press blurb hypes the album as "something unheard of in JM, a ROCK album," and to its credit, both this sampler and the album's lead single "Keil Nkomois" do seem to back that up, even sounding a bit power metal at times, which I dig. On the downside, it also appears to be suffering from the same flaws as many a JM album, that being an overabundance of schmaltzy ballads disrupting the flow and a lyrically weak English song ("Peace!", which seems to have a bored high-schooler's understanding of the Middle East conflict.)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Shira Choir ft. Avrum Mordche Schwartz sing Zusha songs

The Shira Choir, accompanied by vocalist Avrum Mordche Schwartz, keyboardist Shmily Shapiro, and clarinetist Jonatan Joseph, have released a clip of them performing a medley of songs from the band Zusha. Included in the medley are Zusha songs "Dov Ber", "Mashiach", and a third one I can't quite identify.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Yehuda Shama releases new single "Shlach Lachmecha"

Israeli singer-songwriter Yehuda Shama has released his latest single, the Avicii-esque "Shlach Lachmecha" (Cast Your Bread). Written and composed by Shama, the track was produced and arranged by Reuven Chiyun.

Shama has released several previous singles since 2014. You can check them out on his YouTube channel here.

Eitan Freilich releases new single "Lehodos Lecho"

London-based rising star Eitan Freilich has released a new single entitled "Lehodos Lecho". The track was produced by Sruly Meyer, composed by Yitzy Waldner, and arranged by Mendy Hershkowitz and Chesky Breuer of Sonic-Duo Productions.

"Lehodos Lecho" is something of a departure from Freilich's previous singles, many of which were ballads or light dance tracks. Instead, it borrows from the bouncy piano-centric soul-pop of artists like Sara Bareilles and Andy Grammer, complete with "doo-doo-doos", while comfortably incorporating the more conventional rock guitars and brass section, making for a fun and energetic track.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Yisroel Laub releases "Koily"

Singer/producer Yisroel Laub, best known for collaborating with Nissim on the latter's most recent album, has released a new single of his own entitled "Koily". Laub composed and produced the worldbeat-tinged song at his own Little Box Records studio in central Jerusalem, while Yitzy Berry mixed it.

Dovid Lowy drops lyric video for "Nigun Moshiach"

Singer Dovid Lowy has released a lyric video for "Nigun Moshiach", the latest single off his sophomore album, last year's Inspire. The  dance-pop anthem was composed by Lowy, arranged by Lukas Untersteiner and Ruby Antolin, and features English lyrics by Chaya Nehaus that speak of longing for Moshiach. The song cleverly incorporates the titular metaphor ("the nigun we're all waiting for") as Lowy sings his own rousing nigun over a well-constructed build and drop.

Aharon Razel releases new single "Holech Tamim"

Aharon Razel has released "Holech Tamim" (Walking With Hashem), the latest single off his new album Until I Find A Place. The song, a soft ballad, was composed by Razel with pesukim from Tehilim 15, which describes the type of holy person who will enter Hashem's kingdom. It was produced and mixed by Maor Shoshan.

Until I Find a Place was released on June 9 and is available on iTunes and Spotify, among other outlets.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Video: Yonina, "Adam Shel Chalomot"

Husband-and-wife duo Yonina (Yoni and Nina Tokayer), long known for performing YouTube covers in their living room, have been branching out to original music for some time now, and are currently on the cusp of a full-length album. The latest taste from that album is the pair's just-released single "Adam Shel Chalomot" (Dreamer). 

The song, composed by Yoni and co-produced by Tal Ronen and Synergia guitarist Banua Nahaisi, is a Mizrahi-tinged folk rock tune that sounds like it could have come from an early Moshav Band record. The lyrics, written by Moshe Klugheft, seek to inspire listeners by telling them there is no shame in being a "person of dreams" and looking to the future.

Sruli Broncher ft. Nerya Angel, "Yoter Tov!"

Israeli EDM chasid Sruli Broncher has teamed with singer and DJ Nerya Angel for their new single, an upbeat summer dance track entitled "Yoter Tov!" (Better). Written and composed by Broncher, the song's optimistic lyrics encourage listeners to look for "the lights at the end of the tunnel" even when things are difficult.

Video: Eli Begun, "Haolam Hu Tov"

Singer Eli Begun has released a video for his new guitar-heavy single "Haolam Hu Tov". The video was directed by the song's producer and Begun's brother, Chananya Begun, who often collaborates with him. Eli Begun composed the song himself, while the original Hebrew lyrics were written by Sari Israeli and arrangements were handled by Ian Freitor.

This is Begun's third single, following last year's "We Must Go On" and "Shabbos Hayom". He comes from a musical family; besides his brother, he is also the son of Miami Boys Choir founder Yerachmiel Begun.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hanan Ben Ari releases new single and video "Wikipedia"

Israeli soul/hip hop star Hanan Ben Ari has released a video for his new single "Wikipedia". The song is co-written by him and Keren Peles, while Eyal Mazig handled production.

On "Wikipedia", Ben Ari presents a more somber version of the social commentary on previous single "Tutim", using the titular website and other social media as a metaphor for how Israelis often reduce each other to broad stereotypes ("Every leftist is a traitor, every Arab is a suicide bomber / Every Haredi is a robber and all the settlers murdered Rabin"), leading to the chorus' plea "Don't put me in a cage / Don't summarize me on Wikipedia". He even makes the theme personal by once again advising listeners not to make assumptions about him just because he's religious.

MBD to release new album "Tzaakah"

Veteran Hasidic vocalist Mordechai Ben David will be releasing a new album entitled Tzaakah this Sunday. 

The album, his 35th overall and his first in six years, was produced by his son Yeedle Werdyger, a successful performer in his own right, and will feature thirteen tracks arranged by the likes of Eli Klein and Yitzy Berry, Mona Rosenblum, Eli Lishinsky, and Yoeli Dickman, among others. 

You can listen to a sample of it below.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Aharon Razel ft. Mordechai Ben David, "Ana Avda"

Aharon Razel and Mordechai Ben-David recently released the duet "Ana Avda" as the third single from the former's upcoming album, which has been officially titled Ad Emtza Makom (Until I Find A Place). Composed by Razel, the track was produced and arranged by Yuval Stoppel (Avraham Fried) and features backing from the Yedidim Choir.

Besides MBD, Razel's album will also feature guest appearances from Ishay Ribo and his brother Yonatan Razel.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

New single: Yonatan Razel, "Poteach Lev"

Yonatan Razel has released his new single "Poteach Lev" (Open Heart), the title track from his upcoming third album, which comes out May 25th. Razel produced and arranged the track with Alon Yufah.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Aharon Razel crowdfunding new album

Aharon Razel is currently crowdfunding the release of his upcoming new album on the Israeli platform Headstart. You can check it out and contribute here.

The album, which as of yet seems to be untitled (although the page bears the title "It's Our Niggun"), is tentatively scheduled for late spring and will feature arrangements/production from Razel regular Avi Tal, Maor Shoshan (Ishay Ribo), Gil Smetana (Ehud Banai), Yuval Stoppel (Avraham Fried), and Yoeli Dickman. Among these are already-released singles "Zeh Haesek Shelanu" and "Ad Emtza Makom Lashem".

At this writing, the campaign has reached 43% of its 120,000 ILS goal, with 15 days to go.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mendi Jerufi releases "V'Shamru" sefira single

Israeli Chabad artist Mendi Jerufi has released an acapella version of Avraham Fried's "V'Shamru" for Sefira. Vocal arrangements were handled by Menachem Munis.

Jerufi has released five albums, most recently 2015's Hayom Hu Yavo.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Twelve Jewish Acapella Songs You've Never Heard (by TheAsh)

Guest Post by TheAsh of That's Frum!?

It's sefira, and Jews everywhere are turning to acapella to get their music fix. But before you go insane watching "Candlelight" for the millionth time, here are twelve Jewish acapella songs you might not have heard before. Note: I limited each artist to one song each to provide greater variety, and tried to focus on songs that varied in musical style and have not been covered by a lot of groups (e.g, Yehuda!'s "Umacha", which seems to be a Jewish acapella right of passage for some reason).

1) Shir Appeal - Delilah: This song by Tuft University's twenty-year-old co-ed Jewish acapella group Shir Appeal hits all the right notes and is arguably the best acapella song I ever heard. Thankfully not the expected Tom Jones or the Plain White T's cover, but of the rather lesser-known song from Florence + The Machine, Shir Appeal imbues the song with both Jewish meaning and excellent harmonies. I particularly enjoyed the harmony on the first hook ( "A different kind of danger") where the superb arrangements really stand out. "Delilah" is Jewish acapella at its best. (Kol Isha Warning for those concerned.) The song was originally released as a single and then on Shir Appeal's recent album Perspectives (which I also heartily recommend).

Also Worth A Listen (hereafter abbreviated as AWAL):
Shir Appeal's "Jonah", off their album Linguistics, another excellent cover of a Biblically-inspire secular song (this one by the band Guster) rendered Jewishly.

2) The Maccabeats - The Sound Of Silence: The Maccabeats burst into national fame with their hit single Candlelight (though their debut album was released earlier), and it's hard to call any of their songs not well-known. However, this years single 'The Sound of Silence', besides for being an excellent song, so passed under the radar that it deserves a major shoutout. Oh Maccabeats, why didn't you promote what IMHO is your best song?? It's incredibly hard to cover the Simon and Garfunkel song right, even with musical instruments, but the Maccabeats manage just fine with an all-vocal arrangement.

AWAL: The Maccabeats' "When You Believe" off their second album Out Of The Box, which in my view was highly underrated.

3) Six13 - D'ror Yikra: Although now Six13 is largely known for their fun pop parodies, they were once better-known for their original songs. "D'ror Yikra", off the group's aptly titled sophomore album Encore, is a great Middle Eastern-style song that features a great melody and a percussion intro that can only be described as 'bubbly'. "D'ror Yikra" highlights Six13's creativity at their best.

AWAL: "Yigdal", off the group's first album. It possibly features the best vocal drums in all of Jewish acapella.

4) Shabbosdige Oitzrois - Kah Echsof: The first chassidic style acappella song (that is, a song lacking percussion-style vocal effects and merely features pure harmonies), this is the famed L'chaim Tish "Kah Echsof" without instrumentals. This song is also very hard to find, as it was released on the group's only album Shabbosdige Oitzrois, which is now largely unavailable. Bug your chassidic friend till he gives you a copy, because this song is a must-listen and is chassidic acapella at its best.

AWAL: Every other track on this super-rare album. Also, "V'hee Rachamecha", off the Zemiros Group's debut album featuring Eli Beer, is another excellent song done in a similar style.

5) Y-Love & Yuri Lane - Shake It: "Shake It" was released on the really creative acapella album Count It: Sefira by then still-chassidic and still-closeted Y-Love, and is a fun song that celebrates Sukkos. Unlike most Jewish acapella songs that feature drum-like computerized percussion, this song is unique in featuring real beatboxing, by famed beatboxer Yuri Lane. This song also brings back great memories (at least for me): The whole three weeks it was on repeat in my bunkhouse when I was ninth grade in camp.

AWAL: "Bar Yochai" on the same album. Amazingly, Count It: Sefira isn't the only Jewish rap acapella album out there; Ari Lesser also has an album entitled Three Weeks.

6) The Shabbatones - Ahava Ktana. The second song on this list with female vocalists. "Ahava Ktana" is an excellent cover of the Shiri Maimon song, and really gets you pumping. The Shabbatones are Penn Universtiy's co-ed acapella Group, and "Ahava Ktana" was featured on their album Friday Night Lights. It was also the first track on Mike Boxer's collection BOJAC (Best Of Jewish A Capella) Vol 2, so clearly
I'm not the only one who thinks this song is great. (Again, Kol Isha, for those concerned.)

AWAL: The Shabbatones' excellent Subliminal cover "Tikva", also on Friday Night Lights and BOJAC Vol 2.

7) A.K.A. Pella - V'havienu. Unlike the other groups in this list, A.K.A. Pella are more of a 'let's imitiate musical instruments' group than a pure acapella group. However the vocal 'electric guitar' intro on this song is so good, it deserves an entry on this list. V'havienu is off their second album (aptly titled A.K.A. Pella 2), and was also featured on Acapella Treasury: Yom Tov.

AWAL: A.K.A. Pella's "Eitz Chayim", the first track off their Adaptation album set to the tune of "It's My Life" by Bon Jovi.

8) Gil Nagar - Ata Elokai. Every Sefira, there seems to be a widespread practice for Israeli artists to release awful acapella covers. I mean, truly awful. (Two egregious examples are Gilad Potalski's "Hofachta", which is terribly off-tune, and Ohad Moskowitz's "Birchas Habonim" - what is that drum sound? Cheek popping??). That's why I was so pumped to hear Gil Nagar's "Ata Elokai", which shows that at least some Israelis can get acapella right. The song is also an excellent tune.

AWAL: I thought Avishai Rosen's "Malachim" acapella cover was also decent for the genre.

9) Nissim Black - Falling Star. Nissim, whose third Jewish album Lemala took the JM world by storm earlier this year, told me in a personal interview that this is one of his less-known songs of which he's proud. And he has every right to be - o
riginally released under the group name MA"SH and sung alongside brother-in-law Yosef Brown and singer Gabriel Mintz, it's the only Jewish song that I'm aware of with a doo-wop, African-American barbershop-quartet style arrangement. The original musical version is also great, but I prefer the acapella version.

AWAL: Nissim's only other acapella song, "Lo Avater", where he's featured alongside Six13 on their just-released seventh album Blessings.

10) Kol Ish - Yehi Ch'vod: Kol Ish is known for their edgy music videos - both musical and acapella. "Just Had Chometz", their musical parody of The Lonely Islands' "I Just Had Sex" which is sometimes even more shocking than the original, got over 100,000 views on YouTube. Their hilarious acapella cover of Lorde's Royal, "Mohel", also went viral. But before these videos, Kol Ish was a relatively aidele - but still excellent - acapella group, with the album Before Eve under their belt. "Yehi Ch'vod", the final track on that otherwise somewhat underwhelming album, merits inclusion here, because, besides for just being a great song, it features some of the best vocal distortion effects I've heard in Jewish acapella, making Kol Ish sound like heavy rockers instead of nice Jewish boys.

AWAL: Kol Ish's covers (both of them) of Yaakov Shwekey's "Meheira". Besides for the version on Before Eve, they also do one with A.K.A. Pella on their album Platinum.

11) 8th Day - Ayeh Mekom. "Ayeh Mekom", 8th day's only acapella song, and one of the group's lesser known songs, was on their debut album "Tracht Gut" and also was featured on "A Capella Treasury: Shabbos", the Friedman Family's "My Zaidy's Zemiros", and the Chabad Telethon. It also shows how, just using two guys voices, you can make an excellent song with no music, complex harmonies, or effects. (Unlike many acapella songs which have tons of guys voices, overdone harmonies, and cheesy effects, and sound terrible.) This is the catchiest song on the list: listen to it once and it will not get out of your head. Don't say I didn't warn you.

AWAL: Although 8th Day have no other acapella songs, they do appear alongside Six13 and Yitzy Spinner on Six13's track V'zakeini/ V'hee she'amda on Zmanim, and alongside Avraham Fried on the aforementioned acappella album My Zaidy's Zemiros. Check out "Ma Yedidus".

12) Gershon Veroba - "Little David (The Fight in the Man)": Last but definitely not least, this is hands-down the best acapella-with-vocal-drums-but-with-no-computerization song there is. A cover of the Moshe Yess/Megama classic, and also a song Gershon performed many times way back with his band Takana, "Litte David" is bursting with energy and fun. And 
I strongly suggest that you should schedule a heart exam if your heart doesn't leap with pleasure when you hear the hook with the lyrics "Tell me a story and then I'll go to bed". This song was released as a free download back in 2009 as a Jewish Insights exclusive.

AWAL: Yerachmiel has a different great acapella Moshe Yess cover, "God Is My Strength".

Honorable Mentions:

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sefira Update: Ari Goldwag, Micha Gamerman, Kippalive

As the days of Sefira continue, here are some of the more high-profile Jewish acapella clips this week.

First up, Israeli vocal troupe Kippalive has released their video "Best Day BeYachad", a mashup of "Best Day Of My Life" by American Authors and "Shir La'Ahava (Yachad)" by Ayelet Tzioni and Gili Liber. The video is intended as a tribute to the group's home country, with an opening quote of Theodor Herzl, sweeping location shots of the land, and even a release in the week between Yom HaShoah and Yom Hazikaron.  
(Warning: Questionable use of auto-tune.)

Next up is Ari Goldwag, pulling from his just-released album Acapella Soul 4 with this video for "Ve'ahavta", a cover of Hasidic singer Meilech Kohn's minor Purim hit from last year. The Lag BaOmer-themed video was produced by Goldwag and shot with Yirmiyahu Vann of Vann Visuals.
(Warning: Questionable use of "old man" makeup.)

And finally, speaking of Ari Goldwag, he and rising Brazilian artist Micha Gamerman collaborated on an acapella version of the latter's hit single "Rak Simcha".
(Warning: Questionable use of creepy smiley face mask that only a horror movie villain would wear.)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sefira A Capella season kicks off

Pesach is over, sefirah is in full swing, and the JM world has wasted no time in getting the requisite annual a capella market going. Our friend TheAsh (of the That's Frum!? blog) will have a piece here shortly listing the best Jewish a capella songs you've never heard, but first let's look at the ones that dropped in the last 24 hours. We have:

  • Nemouel (Nemouel Harroch) with this self-arranged a capella version of "Elokai", his hit single from earlier this year.

  • The Israeli Malchus Choir with their "Galician March". The piece, with vocals arranged by Pinchas Bichler, is from the choir's upcoming a capella album Ashreichem Yisrael, which was distributed early to readers of the Eida Chareidis magazine Kehala Kadisha.

  • Elad Shaer with a vocal version of his single "Koreh BeShimcha", here arranged and produced by Yaniv Blass.

  • And finally, composer Udi Damari (best known for his work with Haim Israel and others) and his vocal (and all Hebrew) arrangement of Benny Friedman's big hit single "Ivri Anochi".

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Matisyahu releases new single "Back to the Old"

Matisyahu has released his new single "Back to the Old", the second single from his
upcoming album Undercurrent, due out May 19 from Fallen Sparks Records and Thirty Tigers. You can check out the song below.

On the subject of the lyrics, Matisyahu told Billboard, "'Back to the Old' is the story of Abraham returning home to a whole new world after his earth-shattering breakthroughs and breakdowns up on the mountain. For me this was paralleled by moving back home 10 minutes from where I grew up in NY and starting my life again."

Undercurrent is available to pre-order on iTunes, Amazon, and PledgeMusic. Matisyahu will be embarking on a West Coast tour with UB40 and Raging Fyah in July.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Video: The Maccabeats, "Mah Nishtanah"

A cappella masterminds The Maccabeats have released a rendition of "Mah Nishtanah" for Passover. The catch? In addition to their voices, the video has them using items from the seder (wineglasses, haggadah, breaking matzah, etc.) to add to the beat.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Shtar releases Pesach single "Echad Mi Yodea"

Hip-hop unit Shtar has released a new single and video for Pesach entitled "Echad Mi Yodea", of course referencing the famous Pesach song of the same name. The track was recorded and produced at Redstone Studios, owned by the band's guitarist/songwriter Brad Rubinstein, while Yirmiyahu Vann created the video. One line of the song is credited to Johnnie Gordon, Rubinstein's former Lisp bandmate. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Video: Nuriel debut with "Beautiful Day"

Jerusalem-based alt-folk band Nuriel have released their debut single and video, "Beautiful Day". The track was recorded at Redstone Studios with mixer Yehuda Zeytim, while the video is credited to Danny Gold and Modan Films.

While only a couple years old, Nuriel comes pre-packaged with considerable J-Rock cred: three-fifths of the band (frontman Yonatan Attias and his brothers David and Michael) are the sons of Reva L'Sheva percussionist Yitzhak Attias and Tofa'ah flautist Tamar Attias, while drummer Tzvi Solomons is a member of Shtar. While this is their first studio work, they have several live tracks on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

8th Day release "Kapayim" video

Chabad duo 8th Day have released a video for "Kapayim", the second single off their recent album Slow Down. Composed and arranged by the Marcus brothers and mixed by Bruce Witkin of Unison Music, the Mizrahi-flavored song is a Hebrew-language tribute to Israel, name-checking various cities and regions in the country while encouraging listeners to "kapayim" (clap hands) for Jerusalem. The video, created by Shmuly Levitin, follows the theme with a montage of photos from the region.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Video: The Living Wells, "The Flow"

Alt-rap duo The Living Wells have released a video for "The Flow", the latest single from their mixtape Folk Rap. The high-energy video was filmed in Israel by director Drew Feldman. The song, which interpolates Nico and Vinz' "Am I Wrong", has Living Wells frontman Moshe Friedman chronicling his personal and spiritual evolution and the people he's met and lost along the way.

Folk Rap is available to stream on YouTube as well as download free from The Living Wells' official website.

Hillel Gross releases debut single "Horeini"

Brooklyn-based vocalist Hillel Gross has released his debut single "Horeini". Composed by Gross and produced and arranged by Naftali Schnitzler (Beri Weber, Lipa Schmeltzer), the ballad features a mixture of Hebrew pesukim and original Yiddish lyrics that, according to the video description, relate to "our strong connection to Hashem".

Gross is reportedly working on a full-length album with Schnitzler producing.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ben Snof releases new single "Harega Shelanu" (Our Moment)

Israeli soul singer Ben Snof has released his newest single "Harega Shelanu" (Our Moment). The song, an original-lyrics wedding ballad that highlights Snof's impressive vocal range, is produced and arranged by his longtime collaborator Yogev Samina, while Kineret Samina wrote and composed the track.

Born in Tzfat, Snof began singing at age 7 as a soloist in the Pirchei Tzfat choir. He was brought up secular but became religious after releasing his first album in 1999 and retired from music for a time. He returned ten years later and has since released two more albums (2009's Hineh Hu Bo and 2010's The Journey) as well as several successful singles.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Mordechai Ben David releases single "Boee Veshalom" for granddaughter's wedding

Veteran Hasidic crooner Mordechai Ben David recently released his new single, "Boee Veshalom", in honor of his granddaughter's wedding (the daughter of his son Yeedle Werdyger, also a big Hasidic star). The song was composed and arranged by established frum-pop songwriters Eli Klein and Yitzy Berry.

(Note: The song has not been given an official release on any easily shareable platform, so I just uploaded it to my personal Soundcloud, as you can see below.)

(Hat tip to Yossi Zweig at The Jewish Insights)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Aharon Razel releases new single "Ad Emtza Makom Lashem" (Until I Find a Place for G-d)

Aharon Razel has released his new song "Ad Emtza Makom Lashem" (Until I Find a Place for G-d), the second single (after last month's "Zeh Haesek") promoting his upcoming album.

Razel co-wrote the song with his wife, Efrat, based on verses from Tehillim 132. He also produced and arranged it with Avi Tal and recorded it at Midikol Studios in Jerusalem.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Dedi Graucher returns with new single "Bou Nesameach"

Popular Israeli Hasidic singer Dedi Graucher has released his newest single, "Bou Nesameach" (Let Us Rejoice), a techno/rock number produced and arranged by Yoeli Dickman and composed by Graucher's son Aviel. The Hebrew lyrics, original with some pesukim interspersed, call for unity among all Jews (even specifically addressing Dati and Masorti at one point).

Despite Graucher's popularity in the frum world, this track is actually something of a comeback for the singer; outside of appearances at the annual HASC concerts, he hasn't released any solo material since 2004. Whether this single will lead to a new album has not been confirmed.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Video: 8th Day, "Torah"

Chabad rockers 8th Day have released a video for "Torah", the new reggae-rock single off their latest album Slow Down, which dropped earlier this month.The video was shot and edited by Mendel Katz.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Video: ohr, "Brother"

Singer-songwriter ohr (Jake Polansky) has just released a video for "Brother", the Avicii-influenced second single off his debut Side by Side EP. The video is credited to L.E. Doug Staiman, the former Groggers frontman who has also done videos for The Avoda and NOEY.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Video: Alliel ft. Moshe of The Living Wells, "Am Yisrael Chai"

The past week has seen a sudden explosion of Jewish hip-hop, with new releases from Hebro, Nosson Zand, Nissim, and Lev King D. But knowing the trends of Jewish music, the one likely to be most popular - and not undeservedly so - is this video for "Am Yisrael Chai", a collab between French R&B singer Alliel and rapper Moshe Friedman of alt-rap duo The Living Wells.

Based on Madcon and Ray Dalton's "Don't Worry", "Am Yisrael Chai" parlays that song's funk-enhanced optimism into a compelling Jewish Perseverance narrative ("We've seen the greatest kingdoms / Eventually they fall / Who knew the smallest nation / Would live to pass them all?"). Alliel is appropriately soulful and fun on the track, Friedman delivers a clever and forceful guest verse, and the visually inventive video, created by director Tal Zagreba and VFX artist Noam Toledano, references everything from classical artwork to Mortal Kombat (not even making that up).

In terms of background, Alliel has had a few other singles but is probably best known from last summer's megahit "WeR1", where he shared track space with Gad Elbaz, Nissim and DeScribe among others. Elsewhere, The Living Wells are part of that recent Jewish rapsplosion, having released their new mixtape Folk Rap on Friday. They are highly recommended by this author, particularly their single "The Process".

Happy Purim from Yidwise

Here's wishing a freilichen Purim to all the loyal and encouraging Yidwise followers. Have fun, be happy, and please drink responsibly. Or don't, you little rebel! But seriously though, don't get too crazy.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Zusha releases new single "Modeh"

Hasidic folk-soul trio Zusha recently released their new single "Modeh", a trippy R&B setting of the early-morning prayer Modeh Ani. The track was recorded, mixed, and produced by Jon Seale of Mason Jar Music.

Zusha can next be seen hosting the Zusha Purim Fest with rapper and Matisyahu protege Zeke Finn at the Bowery Ballroom this Saturday night (tickets here). Followers of Yidwise will recall that their debut full-length Kavana made my Five Great Jewish Albums From 2016 list.

Lev Tahor, "LTV" (review by TheAsh)

Album: LTV

Released: Feb 22, 2017

Style: Pop/Soul/Folk

Lev Tahor, a boy band/pop group generally recognized as one of the more innovative groups in Jewish music, recently released their fifth album, LTV, their first in 12 years. Lev Tahor, consisting of Gadi Fuchs, Ari Cukier, and lead singer Eli Schwebel, has previously released two a capella albums and two regular ones, and counts in its repertoire the hit songs "Im Lavan Garti" and "Moshe", both off their fourth album, which attained bestseller status in the Orthodox Jewish community. Additionally, Schwebel, who is often credited with giving them their distinctive sound, released in late 2014 a solo album entitled Hearts Mind, which included the wildly popular single "Yagga". On LTV, the group's voices have matured quite a bit, and on many tracks they seem to leave their old musical style behind in favor of more contemporary pop-style songs than the hartzig harmonies on earlier albums. In fact, one gets the impression that this is really two albums in one: Lev Tahor 5 (the 'older style' tracks like "Avdecha" and "Birchas Hachodesh") and Eli Schwebel 2 (the 'pop style' tracks like "Gam Zu" and "Simchas Beis Hashoeva"). 

LTV includes seven new songs and five songs which are either covers ("Hallelu", "Mr. Tanner"), rereleases ("Dror Yikra"), or remixes  ("Yaggapella", "Don't Stop Giving Love"). The two real stand-outs among the originals are "Meheira" and "Gam Zu". "Meheira", my personal favorite on the album, first seems like your stereotypical Jewish slow song (with a piano low part, string-section high part, and even the words of "Meheira" - how much more stereotypical can you get?), but Lev Tahor's beautiful harmonies and excellent rendition renders the song an instant classic (yes, cliche, but when a version of "Meheira" is that amazing, it deserves the cliche). The song features Lev Tahor's voices at their very finest - Schwebel in particular is masterful here - and it would not surprise me if this song was recorded at the time of their fourth album. "Gam Zu", the other big hit of the album, is completely the opposite of "Meheira". While "Meheira" is your stereotypical Jewish song, strings and all, "Gam Zu" is rebellious and edgy and has original English lyrics. With a tune that wouldn't sound out of place on the Billboard Top 40, "Gam Zu" expresses the Jewish sentiment that no matter what - you guessed it - gam zu letova. Although you would not have heard a song like this on older LT albums, after the phenomenal success of Eli Schwebel's debut album (which featured all-English pop/electric rock songs) the group branched out their musical style and gave Eli some creative breathing room, and "Gam Zu" reflects that.

But while the original songs are great, Lev Tahor really catches fire when doing their own rendition of other people's songs, as demonstrated in the past with "Time To Say Good Shabbos" (an Abie Rotenberg/Journeys cover from LT4) and "Deaf Man In The Shteeble" (a David Geddes-by-way-of-Country Yossi cover from LT3). LT5's covers start with "Hallelu", a reworking of "Holiday Road" from the classic comedy National Lampoon's Vacation. While it's admittedly less annoying than the original, it's definitely not one of my favorite songs, and probably not the best cover choice. However, Lev Tahor hits one out of the park with their masterful version of Harry Chapin's classic "Mr. Tanner", which far outdoes the original. In fact, I feel this song is Lev Tahor's best-performed English song of all their albums, and that's saying something. But "Don't Stop Giving Love" shows that Lev Tahor can cover their own songs (or at least their lead singer's) just as well as they can cover others'. Originally on Hearts Mind as a slow rock ballad, the LTV version, created by DJ Dilemmachine, delivers a pop remix that far outshines the original. The other Hearts Mind song here is "Yagga", redone in an a capella version as "Yaggapella". Although mixed by a capella genius Ed Boyer (Pentatonix, Pitch Perfect), I feel Lev Tahor should have gone with themselves on this one. They have already two classic a capella albums under their belt showing that their voices and unique harmonies alone  far surpass the all-too-common 'fake-drum' a capella technique. Other groups may need fake drums as a crutch, but Lev Tahor has shown they can stand on their own, and here it simply detracts from their great harmonization and turns a great song into a merely good one. 

Two songs on LTV feature other artists, "Dror Yikra" and "Simchas Beis Hashoeva.
"Dror Yikra" is a great Sefardi-style song that features Yehuda Gilden and Rivie Schwebel (Eli's father and a former Journeys member). You may have heard before - it was originally released on Harei Yehuda, an album of compositions by Gilden, in 2007. Kudos to Lev Tahor to including it, though, as most have never heard it. (If only they'd included "Av Harachamim" from The Shmorg as well.) However, "Simchas Beis Hashoeva", which features Lipa Schmeltzer, is by far the weakest song on the album. The song, although featuring the most interesting Hebrew words on the album, has a reggae-style beat that just doesn't sound good and a highly questionable intro alluding to a DJ concert in the Beis Hamikdash. I know Lipa has a penchant for pushing boundaries, but I didn't expect it from Lev Tahor. This song, or at least the intro to it, just doesn't belong on this otherwise great album. 

In conclusion, although LTV is different than their other albums musically, it's still a great buy. If you enjoy Eli Schwebel's debut album or generally like more electric pop songs, you'll get maximum enjoyment of this album, but even if you don't, it includes enough of their older-style material to keep you satisfied.

TheAsh is the owner of a massive Jewish music collection, and publishes the "That's Frum!?" Jewish music blog.