ITAI BALTER Hashemesh Haruach Hashad VeHayam (Nana Records) Itai Balter is no newcomer to the local music arena. He has been working 15 years in the business with such bands as Gvanim Kehim. Now, he finally makes his solo debut with Hashemesh Haruach Hashad VeHayam. Like Amir Lev, with whom he has collaborated in the past, Balter knows how to tell a story. Each of his songs contains an out of the ordinary narrative. "Sami" is a murder mystery, "New York" sketches Tel Aviv and its residents, and "Rak Elohim Yodeah" questions fate in a rather interesting way. Balter's topics are not frivolous, and it is unlikely his album will go gold. But those who invest in this album will be conquered by his talent both textually and musically. Balter's voice is deep and penetrating making this an intimate album, not one for the masses. The songs here are not middling in any way. You won't find gimmicks here. Rather, Balter presents a truth not often available in today's commercial music marketplace. IRIS FARHI Thank You Fear (Helicon) Iris Farhi is a new woman rocker on the scene. Thanking her fear for her strength to make it in music, she is no soft rocker. She is piquant both in her lyrics and sound. Farhi, who composed music and wrote texts to all 12 songs on the album, took four-and-a-half years to perfect the album to her liking. While Helicon was happy to take her on board their roster, Farhi has dealt with quite a bit of flak from critics. She told Music 24 that the criticism that her song "Lo Hayita Rashum" (about a friend who was killed while serving in Lebanon) was made up, especially troubled her. But as she wrote in the title track, "Thank you fear for choosing me, to frighten my heart, should I run away or stay, endeavor or give up, endeavor not give up" - Farhi is a survivor. She didn't go the reality TV route to obtain the spotlight, she didn't rely on a ritzy manager, and she didn't use connections to break into the local music scene. Rather she is one of the musicians we no longer hear about today: a woman with drive who sent homemade samples to a record company. Her album came out last summer but until this month, it was only available at her concerts. Farhi shows that women can indeed rock. Her tunes are melodic and her words are courageous and encouraging. Musically, she isn't afraid to highlight the guitars on her songs. Farhi's smoky voice seizes the listener and doesn't let go from track one through 12.