Welcome to Week in Review, a new Yidwise feature I'm trying out. If you're wondering where this came from, or where I've been the past couple months, check out this post here.
So last week was Purim, which of course means a deluge of Purim singles hoping to capture the JM imagination. Some were good, some were weird, and others...well, we'll get to that.
Before we begin: If there's a song from last week that's not included here, I either didn't know about it, didn't get a chance to hear it, or didn't have much if anything to say about it. Also, hat tip to Yehuda Bradley of Yehuda's Jewish Music Blog for his tireless coverage of JM singles that made this post that much easier to research.
We good? Good.
The Weird But Awesome
Sruly Wagshal ft. Yoely Lebovits, "Hantigen Toog"
This will probably be the underrated gem of the week. The beat samples "Misirlou", a Mediterranean folk tune instantly recognizable to fans of Dick Dale and Pulp Fiction, and it makes for a pretty cool Hasidic party track that manages to keep the melody front and center. The two vocalists are no slouch either, delivering some surprisingly tight and entertaining rap verses, a hearty call-and-response pre-chorus, and even a sung bridge, all while switching effortlessly between English and Yiddish. It won't change the world, but if you're looking for something a little off-kilter for your next Purim party, definitely check this out.
Yehuda Galili And His Orchestra, "Taninim" (Crocodiles)
This one's a bit more self-consciously weird than the previous entry, but that doesn't stop it from being a ton of fun. With its driving guitars, vocals that range from pitch-shifted chipmunk to clipped choral chants to glam-rock high notes, and lyrical imagery that manages to be awesome without making any sense whatsoever, this is a surreal song, but a blast if you're willing to roll with it. If any of what I just described intrigues you, definitely check this out.
Rachel Kann, "Another Star/Another Queen"
Warm vocals, offbeat instrumentation, spiritually edifying lyrics, challenging subject matter, surreal music video - yep, it's a Rachel Kann piece. Here, accompanied by tension-building strings of violinist Lila Hood, the text seems to be drawing on the popular Jewish feminist interpretation of Vashti as an unfairly maligned victim of abuse. I have my own thoughts on that particular reading that are far outside the purview of this blog post, but when Kann gives such a potent portrayal of defiant hurt and desperation (both in the text and the video) and when the message of empowerment is so beautifully delivered, it doesn't really matter. Definitely give this a listen.
(Oh yeah tznius warning, half-naked lady, honestly who really cares, we're all adults.)
The Perfectly Fine
Zvulun Natanov, "Tzimaon" (Thirst)
This is Zvulun Natanov's debut single, and it's not a bad first impression. The reggae beat has some nice drums and organ, and Natanov manages to ride it pretty capably while working in some nice harmonies. The lyrics are fairly standard fare for a Chabad artist, but they work nicely with the song's groove and tone. Overall a pretty good listen.
Matt Dubb, "Adama V'Shamayim" (Earth and Sky)
I'm still not convinced of Matt Dubb as a solo artist, but so far his singles have been inoffensive enough for me to give him a pass. Here, some of the repetitiveness is a bit grating (particularly the "hey ya hey ya" chant on the chorus), but the more subdued atmosphere and the nicely abstract lyrics make it a decent enough listen.
Yosef Lowenbraum ft. Ely Shalom, "Odeh"
Nothing ground-breaking for EDM, but it's melodic and catchy and the vocals from Ely Shalom are pleasant and have the right amount of emotion. Certainly an intriguing sign for composer Yosef Lowenbraum's upcoming album. If you're a fan of this type of EDM, this isn't too bad.
Avshalom Sluk, "Masechot" (Masks)
A nice upbeat piano-soul track about letting go of "masks" and pretensions and being yourself. It's a bit slight, and it's not as atmospheric as Avshalom Sluk's other singles, but for a lighter song it's perfectly sincere and serviceable.
The Oy Vey
Omen ft. Sruli Broncher, "Lechaim"
I'll admit, I've been steadily less impressed with Sruli Broncher as a producer since he first caught my attention back in 2016 with "Oy A Broch!". Rather than follow the creative, genre-bending promise of that track, he seems content to make boilerplate Chassidishe techno and EDM party songs without much to distinguish them. This is especially true with Omen, his attempt at a boy band (if you can call it that - it's mostly just Netanel Israel with three backup singers). Here, the dance-pop beat is so outdated, cluttered, and obnoxious, the vocals so drenched in autotune, the lyrics such cliche "raise a glass and let's party but also inspirational" cheese, that it might as well be a Black Eyed Peas song from 2009. Even if you're a fan of frum party songs, you can do much better than this.
Amiran Dvir ft. Sruli Broncher & Uri Lazerovich, "Ein Kmo Gedaliah" (There's None Like Gedaliah)
Poor Sruli Broncher's not off the hook just yet. I won't pretend to know anything about Shababnikim, the Israeli cable show this apparently ties in with, so I'll leave the lyrics alone (except to say that they don't make the show sound very interesting), but that just leaves the music to rip apart - the thoroughly unimaginative house beat, the hora melody* that's way too hokey for its own good, Amiran Dvir's nasal, lisping delivery, and the Lil Jon-esque shouting on the breakdown that gets really grating really quickly. Maybe if you're a huge fan of the show, but otherwise skip this.
*Update (3/7/18): It's recently been brought to my attention by Binyomin Ginzberg of Breslov Bar Band that the melody here is not a "hora" but a traditional Breslov nigun used for Kabbalas Shabbos and simchas. Blame it on the continuing trend of JM artists not citing their musical sources in the credits. He also correctly pointed out that I was probably too harsh on what is essentially a novelty song, for which I humbly apologize.
Gad Elbaz, "Save Me From My Selfie"
I am...not a fan of Gad Elbaz, especially his most recent album (for reasons that will hopefully become clear when I post my Albums of 2017 list), and this is easily one of the worse tracks off that album. Never mind the music (though the attempt to blend Mizrahi folk guitar with synths and a dance beat is pretty clumsy and weak), it's the lyrics that are the real nightmare here. As you might have guessed from the groan-worthy title, it's another song about the Evils of Smartphones, and any credit I can maybe give to DeScribe's "iSong" or Lipa's "Hang Up The Phone" is straight out the window here. From the host of unfinished attempts at wordplay, to the butchering of outdated tech terms ("In cyber I stay") to the confusing references to Playstation and Candy Crush, to the random paranoia about GPS spying on him, to the English so fractured you won't believe this man has sung multiple songs in the language, to the fact that he doesn't seem to realize that phones have an off button, to the sheer hypocrisy coming from a 35-year-old dance-pop artist who debuted this album on iTunes. Admittedly Gad Elbaz didn't write these lyrics, but the fact that it's on the album means he at some point agreed to record the song and have this drivel associated with him. It's just lame and infuriatingly disingenuous from beginning to end. If you haven't already, skip this.
Whew. Sorry for all the negativity at the end there, it's part of the lot of a critic. If you have any suggestions for how to improve this feature, or any releases you want me to cover next week, feel free to let me know in the comments or on the socials (links are to the right). This ended coming out a bit later in the week than I'd planned, hopefully the next one will be a bit more prompt. Till then, thanks for reading and have a good one!