TAL SONDAK Af Elayich (NMC) Tal Sondak's debut solo album is finally out on the shelves. Music fans will remember him as Israel's entry at the 2001 Eurovision Song Contest. The song he sang five years ago, "Never Mind," was supposed to be the title track of his album. But after a poor showing - Sondak placed just 16th in the contest - the song was thrown out and does not appear here on Af Elayich. Sondak writes in his press material that it took him three years to find songs "that spoke to his heart." The disc comprises 13 tracks, plus a video clip to the title song. While he tackles important societal issues such as domestic abuse ("Isha Muka," track 10) and Ethiopian immigration ("Yalda Shel Africa," track 12), musically his album lacks clout. His texts - half his, half written by others for him - are strong. The most heartfelt track is undoubtedly "Eizeh Yeled," which Sondak composed after beating childhood cancer. Sondak transmits honesty - something not easy to find among today's artists. He sings like he means it. To ensure success Sondak employed the pens of established lyricists/composers including Yair Klinger, Rahel Shapira, Lea Shabat, and Uzi Hitman. However musically, his album does not standout from other Israeli pop albums. The title track is catchy, but the other songs don't ring all that well. "Lakum Leyom Haba" has an aggravating chorus, "Hazayit" sounds like a rip off of something, and "Im Rak Taskimi" (the song he wrote for his wedding, and on which his wife provides backup vocals) simply oozes with cheese. Overall, the album is textually motivating, but musically not there. GAMAGAMA Self-Titled (Eighth Note) Gal Harpaz and Tal Weitzman, the duo behind the new group, Gamagama, do not lack talent. With so many middle-of-the-road recordings on record store shelves, their original groovy rock sound is great to hear. Harpaz (vocals), Weitzman (arrangements, guitars, percussion) and their backup musicians, Eitan Aharoni (keyboard), Shi Jarbi (guitars), Itai Simon (bass), and Alex Nemirovski (drums) present 12 tracks that waver between rock and Latin vibes. Their music is full of passionate rhythms and harmonies as they mesh all sorts of instruments including saxophone, trombone, and accordion. As for the texts, this troupe stays clear of cliches. Their words are as smooth as their music - a fine example can be found in the song "Pitango" where they sing about Mother Nature, love and all that's in between. The album as a whole is very good. However, it does not sound like something the local music market usually promotes. As such, Gamagama, while talented, are likely going to find it tough to get their music out there.