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Break of Dawn
Eden is a relatively new guitar rock Jewish band out of New York, and their debut album is quirky and edgy enough to stand out from the pack.
The opening "Adon Olam"'s honky-tonk, cowbell-heavy beat and Allmans-esque guitars go well with the Nineties dub pop vocal lines. Later, "Alot Hashachar" sports the type of hard-strumming chorus that can inspire crowds to jump up and down with abandon at concerts. "Wonder Why," an otherwise bland album track, closes with an ambitious string arrangement, which leads the listener into "Nagila," a gleefully rocking metal version of a Sephardic Shabbat table hymn that starts off in the style of a neo-classical piyut but quickly thrashes out.
"Never Let You Go," an ode to Jerusalem, is sweet but hard to take seriously when recorded in a Manhattan studio in exchange for fees probably exceeding El Al fares. On the weaker and slower melodies, where Eden's impressively edgy musicianship can't carry the load, David Ben-Yshay's vocals come off as trying a bit too hard, as in the case of "Od Yishama," Eden's version of the wedding classic. But the highlights are frisky and idiosyncratic enough to carry the disc for repeated listens, making this a promising debut.
Yeshiva University heartthrobs Blue Fringe have finally treated us with their sophomore release, 70 Faces, an endeavor which effectively fleshes out the strengths of their 2003 debut, My Awakening. While the first album was comprised of mostly adult contemporary rock styles, with hints of funky grooving and hard rocking, 70 Faces thankfully ditches the James Taylor flavor, leaving room for the more creative elements.
It's the new album's stress on new-school jazz-funk groove-pop via Shaggy and Jamiroquai that really sets the disc apart. If King Solomon's Song of Songs - described in classical rabbinic teachings as "the holy of holies" - were written by Onion columnist Smoove-B, then the result would resemble the "Shir Hashirim" heard here.
With its groany/breathy vocals and driving rock motion, "Lo Irah" evokes British trio Muse (who, in turn, evoke Radiohead). Based on some verses from Psalms best known as part of the Hallel service, the complex "Lifnei Adon," alternates between a jazzy falling rhythm riff and a soaring refrain. The band's tongue-in-cheek critique of New York Modern Orthodoxy's anxieties over the single life, "Shidduch Song" - which appeared as a poorly-recorded hidden track on the debut - is redeemed here with the full studio treatment. Of course, like any successful Upper West Side shidduch (Orthodox blind date), this one ends with marriage and the couple's relocation to Teaneck, New Jersey.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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