Saturday, November 30, 2013

Arik Einstein- Fly, little bird

It's already been four days since the death of Arik Einstein but a part of me still has trouble believing it's all real. I'm so used to Arik hiding away from the spotlight, it always felt like he would forever be at home, away from the public, and then one day he might make a surprise appearance at one of Shalom Hanoch's late night shows at the Barby, or maybe at the more intimate Ozen Bar. But that day will never arrive and we are left with the interviews, the archive footage (like this golden clip from the cult comedy Lool) and most of all the music. In the last few days so much has been said about Arik Einstein and what he symbolized for us and what his passing means for us, but I just want to focus on a few highlights which offer a glimpse into his world-a world we all wanted to be a part of and in a way has found a permanent place in our hearts.

My little birds have already left the nest
They spread their wings and flew away
And I, an old bird, remained in the nest
Hoping that everything will be fine

I always knew the day would come
When we will have to part
But now it came to me so suddenly
So what's the wonder that I'm a bit worried

Fly, little bird
Soar the skies
Fly wherever you want to
Just don't forget
There's an eagle in the sky
Be cautious, little one

Now we are alone in the nest
But we are together
Hold me tight tell me yes
Don't worry, together it's fun to grow old

Fly, little bird...

I know that this is how it is in nature
And I too left a nest
But now that the moment has arrived
So I'm a bit choked up in the throat
I'm a bit choked up

Fly, little bird...

(thanks Ulpan la Inyan for the translation)

I've always interpreted this song as the perfect graduation song-it fits how a parent probably feels when his (or her) child finishes kindergarten, elementary and high school, although the association that comes to my head is right before the army when parents have to let go of their kids who have no choice but to grow up into adults (sometimes much too quickly). Although I spent most of my army service away from home I only felt I was "leaving the nest" when I began University and lived on my own learning how to deal with bills, clogged pipes and the perfect rice/water ratio. I always felt that this was a song for parents but this week it became a song for children and anyone who grew up with Arik's music. There's really a sense of emptiness which caught us completely off guard even though we always knew the day would come to part. The first time my throat got really choked up (and eventually I let a few tears shed) was when I saw the clip of Shlomo Artzi announcing the death in the middle of a concert. The crowd spontaneously began to sing Artzi's "Where can be found more people like that man?" and after that they decided it was best to end the concert and go home, Shlomo later thanked them on facebook for being so considerate and sensitive. "Now we are alone in the nest, but we are together"-so many people came to the memorial service in Rabin Square and so many people stayed there late at night singing his songs to take part in the collective sadness and shock.

My first memory of an Arik Einstein song (or an Israeli song for that matter) is "You and I" which I first heard as a child when I was living abroad. The first notes are so...Israeli. Only a singer as cool as Einstein could sing such a naive song in such a sincere way.

You and I we'll change the world
You and I, then all will follow
Others have said it before me
It doesn't matter-you and I will change the world.

You and I will try from the beginning
It will be hard for us, never mind, it's not so bad,
Others have said it before me,
It doesn't matter-you and I will change the world.

I first heard "San Francisco" as part of the golden Arik and Shalom in Concert album. It's so poetic, like a modern "My heart is in the East", capturing nostalgic feelings for home that catch you by surprise when you are somewhere distant, and also the longing to share a special experience with someone you love.

Sitting in San Fransisco on the water
Washing the eyes with blue and green
It's beautiful here in San Fransisco on the water
So how come I feel far away

In front of me the geese, swimming between the boats
And the Golden Bridge is beautiful like in a movie
It's a shame you're not with me here to see
You would say that from here you're not going back

Sitting in San Fransisco...

Seeing Dr. J rip the hoops
And Kareem Abdul Jabbar touching the sky,
It's a shame you're not with me here to see
It's so beautiful in San Fransisco on the water.

Sitting in San Fransisco...

Suddenly I want to go home back to the swamp
To sit at Kasit and laugh with Moshe and with Hetzkel
Give me a piece of Tabor give me a piece of the Galilee
I love falling in love with the small country of Israel
And wonderful

Sitting in San Fransisco...

Einstein was a talented songwriter but he was also a very talented performer in that he was able to take texts written by others (in this case Avraham Chalfi) and perform them with all his heart, from the point of view of the speaker in the song. I sometimes watch the music talent shows and what bugs me a bit is that the contestants all have beautiful voices-but that's about it. They emphasize in their songs their vocal abilities but you sometimes get the sense that they aren't really aware what they're singing about-and for me it kind of ruins the experience. Einstein was famous for his modesty and I think it really shows here in this beautiful song-he knows how to harmonize with Yehudit Ravitz and Korin Elal, looking here like their older brother, and he knows how to emphasize the text and really tell the story. He does all this with effortless charm making you feel as if he is singing only to you.

Adorned is your forehead with black gold
(I don't remember if they wrote that in a song)
Your forehead rhymes with eyes and light,
(I don't remember if they rhymed like that in a song)
But for whoever you'll be
His life will be filled with song.

Your pink robe is fleecy and soft
You always wrap yourself in it at night
I wouldn't want to be your brother,
Nor a monk praying to the image of an angel
And seeing gloomy dreams of holiness
And in front of him you, a woman...

You like to be
Sad and silent
Listening to a story about something close, something far
And I, who not once will be watching you quietly
There is no sound and words
Forgetting everything about others.
My soul lies within the walls of your home
And captivated between your walls
Separated from me
While I in my body part from you.

My dream is stretched out like a carpet at your feet
My beloved steps over its flowers your paces
Wear your pink robe at night
I will soon come to you.

And your forehead adorned with black gold
Will approach my lips like a rhyme to a song
So I'll whisper in your ears until the morning, until the light
Like an intoxicated man...
Your forehead adorned with black gold.

(thanks Boomerang for making this rich text much easier to translate)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Malca Baya - State Of Love And Trust

A few days ago I came across the amazing cover of 'Jeremy', made by members of Orphaned Land (who are rapidly taking the world by storm), as part of the massive Bring Pearl Jam to Israel movement. You can read a bit about what Kobi Farhi has to say about it over here at Metal Hammer (respect!). I first came across Bring Pearl Jam to Israel with the cute "Eddie card" clip-over here an Addie card has a much more serious purpose-it means that you have signed your name as a potential organ donor. In any case it was a very original idea to endorse a fictional "Eddie" card showing your support for Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam were always one of those fantasy bands whom you dreamed of seeing live in Israel even though for obvious reasons the chances were always very slim. But radio host Ben Red, the person behind the campaign, realized that there is a very huge fan base in Israel ranging from 30 somethings who grew up listening to 'Ten' to teens who see in Pearl Jam something they can't find in other bands these days. What really made waves over here and also overseas was a very sweet and surprisingly emotional cover to 'Alive' made by kids from the 'Olam Hamuzika' Music School. What was very special was the enthusiastic support from Pearl Jam fans from around the world. Since then Israeli artists such as Geva Alon, The Blue Pill and now Orphaned Land have made covers to Pearl Jam classics lending their support. But my favorite has to be this one by the charming band Malca Baya. I love how they gave their own interpretation to the song and the video is so beautiful. There have been rumors that Vedder has been contemplating on whether to perform in Israel and has even met with Roger Waters to discuss the matter. I can only hope Vedder will come across what Gert from K's Choice said in response to criticism performing in Israel: "If all of us, everywhere and around the world (not just artists, I mean everyone and from every profession, and yes: activists, too) would decide only to work in countries whose leaders are righteous and pure at heart, there would be very little activity, and no progress whatsoever". (Gert's full response can be seen here, when you scroll down to Sep. 13, 2010). Whether Pearl Jam will come to Israel or not, you can't deny the strong community that's been formed and the wonderful music it's bringing with it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Cannons-Invisible Cities

22. That's the age of the members of Cannons and it's exactly how their music feels. It really captures that period when you're after the army, maybe also after the traditional after-army trip abroad, figuring out what's next in life, waiting for something big to happen. I've been waiting for the debut album to come out for quite a while and it was well worth the wait! I don't think I've heard such a cohesive and well produced (and also foreign sounding) Israeli English album since Umlala's excellent StandGoShowShout (who by the way have a new E.P coming out soon). What really makes this band special is not just their distinctive sound but also their very thoughtful lyrics, which can sometimes be easy to miss under the upbeat music. I'm looking forward to the bandcamp release just so I can closely read the lyrics but in the meantime here is the full album from youtube-37 fantastical minutes which will make your day a lot more brighter.

There's nothing romantic in waiting for this feeling to pass.
I cannot find the charm in spending so many nights alone.
Devices are not effective, again it's hard to breath.
A few calls and my soul is already spread upon the operating table.

The letters are hiding in the tired facial creases.
I owe you so much of this.
Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever stop thinking about you.
I wonder, no longer able to understand clearly what I'm missing.

When will time be in our hands again?
Love, I don't ask for much.
Do kids still jump into the river from the bridge?
Weaving strings, over their backyards, staying up all night,
crossing fingers, staring down,
waiting for something big to happen.

My own blood doesn't scare me anymore.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Document - Where You Are

A couple of years ago I wrote about a very impressive band called "Modern Tapes" and I was recently wondering where they had disappeared. So I was very happy to get a mail from this band which once was Modern Tapes. Document describe themselves as a mixture between post-art punk, shoegaze, new-wave and alt rock. They "tend to write songs with unconventional structures and with a sense of urgency. The music video is a 2013 psychedelic montage of odd and impactful GIFs gathered from across the interweb (some originals were also created)". When watching the stunning video you do get a very strong feeling of urgency as well as chaos. Their sound reminds me a bit of Cloud Nothings (another band who changed their identity) only it's much more rushed and also more complex. With Cloud Nothings I sometimes feel like I would love their music much more if I were, say, 16 but here it's just right for me at this moment and I don't see myself growing out of it anytime soon.

Here's a translation of an interview they gave to a Hebrew blog:

You guys started as Modern Tapes and drew some local attention, why did you change your name?
When we were Modern Tapes playing in the bombshelter, we were sort of creating our own musical landscape down there. Most of that material was written before there even was a complete band. Eventually both our playing environment and the music we were making started to feel very claustrophobic. As we began playing and writing live as a band, we began exploring new creative places. The songs became much more daring, much more free. By the time we moved into the Junkyard the sound and dynamic of the band had changed. We started exploring new writing styles and even new roles within the band. When it came time to record, it was pretty clear to everyone that this would be a new band.

Modern Tapes had a more 80's sound. Would you say you're now more into the 90's thing?
We don't look at it like that. It's not about bring back an era. The evolution of the band has more to do with the fact that we've been playing together for more than 3 years. What interests us now is writing songs that take you through a range of emotions-songs with interesting arrangements that move and twist and turn. From desperation to catharsis, sometimes in the same song. We're looking back, we're looking at what's happening now, and we're thinking of where we want to take things. But in the end we're just trying to write good songs.

What have you been listening to lately?
A lot of Fugazi, Galaxie 500, Neutral Milk, The Clash. 'Yeezus' is probably my favorite record of the year so far.

Why don't you sing in Hebrew?
I grew up in the States so English is really the only language I'm comfortable writing in.

So you moved into the Junkyard. What is that?
It's our rehearsal space in South Tel Aviv. It's surrounded by all these locksmith workshops. There's always a bunch of junk around. At night it gets really sketchy. There are the hookers on the corners turning tricks and a bunch of dealers hanging around. You feel like you're playing to all the sinners and junkies and invalids. And for Sophie [the dog] and her new puppies.

Where did the idea for the video for Where You Are come from?
It's a bunch of gifs we gathered this past year-internet junk really. The idea was to create a sort of montage of the current state of the internet through gifs. We wanted it to have a cinematic or vintage feel but also feel very current at the same time. It seems very appropriate for our distraction-craving culture. For a while we were calling it 'internet head'. We went through a lot of versions of the video to get the feel and timing right.

'Where You Are' is part of a 6-song EP that will be released in early January. Good luck guys!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Didi Erez feat. Dana Ivgy-For me it's enough

Winter is over, we opened a window, soon we'll put away blankets in the closet, a quiet morning, we were able to sleep, I get out of bed first.
You smile and it makes me laugh, today you are good to me and for me it's enough.
An open house, the floor is cold, from the shutter a good wind enters, this day will pass by slowly.
There's not a cloud in sight and that's saying a lot, you smile and it makes me laugh, today you are good to me and for me it's enough.

A perfect song for a day like today, a lazy and sunny Saturday after yesterday's dark and cloudy preview of Winter. It may be better suited for Spring but I don't really care as today feels just like Spring (and even Summer). I love Didi Erez's vocals in this song and Dana Ivgy complements them in such a lovely way. Erez is best known for his radio hit "Every Look" but he is also a well respected composer for dance, theatre, film and television. He's also one of the original band members of the epic "Girafot" playing the drums until he left in 2000. These days they're celebrating 15 years since their debut (and now cult) album "Talking with a Chair" including reunion performances with Erez and keyboarder Rotem Dror. "For me it's enough" is Erez's second single after "Breathe" from his upcoming and highly anticipated new album "Berlin".