Geva Alon
Geva Alon Photo by Karin Alon
Text size
Rotem Vachnish
Ninet Tayeb Photo by Rotem Vachnish
Ran Giolani
Balkan Beat Box Photo by Ran Giolani

The annual Kol HaCampus and City Mouse vote for the best albums of the year was a great opportunity for us to look back upon the finest offerings from the local indie music scene. Over the last few weeks Israelis voted for their favorite albums, and now, with the ballots closed and the votes counted, we can present you with the results, as chosen by our loyal readers:

10. Brain Candies – Brain Candies

Let's party like it's 1968! Listening to this debut album for the first time, you couldn't be blamed for thinking you were hearing a veteran Brit band with decades of experience. The sound is so refined, so mature. Brain Candies, however, is a group where the average age is a mere 23. What these youngsters lack in years, however, they make up for in musical depth. The album features 15 songs, all of them gems. They’re psychedelic, polished, full of charm, and dipped in sounds that draw on 60's influences like The Beatles, King Crimson and the Beach Boys, as well as contemporary heavyweights like Radiohead. The result is a vibrant, timeless creation in all the colors of the rainbow.

9. Nowhere That You Know – Tal Cohen-Shalev

It’s no secret that the field of English-speaking Israeli singers has ballooned over the past few years. These foreign-language crooners are divided into two categories – those who mimic Neil Young and Elliot Smith and then actually end up sounding the same, and those who bring a unique sound and personal touch to their creations. Tal Cohen-Shalev, who seasons his folklore with a touch of distortion and psychedelia, is one of the few with a foothold in the latter category. This excellent folk and blues artist from Haifa enlisted Uri Winokur, former producer of Asaf Avidan & the Mojos, and together they’ve created a polished and ambitious second album that is the perfect soundtrack for the cool and melancholy autumn season to come.

8. Sympathetic Nervous System – Ninet Tayeb

Maybe it’s the English language, where Ninet Tayeb feels far more comfortable than with Hebrew, or maybe it’s the way she’s succeeded in channeling her emotions and realizing her potential through hugely improved lyrics, Maybe it’s down to British producer Mike Crossey, who manages to focus Tayeb's third album. Either way, Sympathetic Nervous System is her best album to date: It’s sharp, aggressive and uncompromising, grabbing us by the throat and showing us a courageous, grown-up artist approaching maturity. Now where are all those critics who’ve mocked her all these years?

7. Tales of a Drunken Man – L.F.N.T.

Did you know that the guy who’s been standing to the right of Asaf Avidan for so long has such an explosive talent? Ran Nir rose from the ashes of Avidan’s band, the Mojos, and his debut album presents us with his personal life story over the last few years – the band that was an inseparable part of his life, the long tours, the price he paid, and the alcohol that washed his loneliness and depression down when it all fell apart. Tales of a Drunken Man symbolizes the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter for Nir, who gives us an eclectic, honest and stirring rock and roll record; a record that expresses the essence of the life philosophy behind the initials L.F.N.T – Live Free Not Troubled. We’ll drink to that.

6. Massive Fingers Spacetrip – Tiny Fingers

Space, that endless frontier. Space is probably the only place that could truly accommodate Tiny Fingers’ music: a weightless creation stretching toward infinity, forever racing forward and able to be measured only by Mach numbers and sonic booms. This album's greatness lies in the way it breaks musical conventions with a 10-pound hammer. It completely blurs different genre distinctions, resulting in a melting pot of post-rock, dubstep, psychedelia, electronica and progressive music. This is a psychedelic trip with the feel of a science-fiction movie, complete with aggressive guitars, cold, mechanical keyboards and an intensity that shatters the ground beneath your feet. If this is the music of tomorrow, then suddenly the future doesn’t look so bleak.

5. Give – Balkan Beat Box

The social justice protests that swept the country over the past year and a half highlighted the fact that, in Israeli music, there are hardly any artists who make critical statements about society and its evils. The escapist group Balkan Beat Box rips itself out of this vacuum with their fourth album, Give. This record provides an exciting, musical canvas alongside a sharp and piercing manifesto that touches upon political events over the world (“Political F**k”), the pursuit of money (“Money”), capitalist greed (“Look Like You”) and the paranoia and suspicion around foreigners in America (“Enemy in Economy”), which tells an unpleasant but true story about singer Tomer Yosef’s experiences in the U.S. It's the ideal combination of rhythm and statements, making Balkan Beat Box as relevant as ever.

4. Hahaver Ani – Rami Fortis

Nikola Tesla was a scientist and inventor who tested each of his inventions – from the largest mechanisms to the smallest – in his mind, through creative visualization. Only when he was completely satisfied that the invention was as perfect as possible did he begin to build it for real. One can understand why Fortis was interested in such an eccentric personality, and this is expressed in Hahaver Ani, a fascinating journey into the depths of his subconscious, ranging from childhood memories to his imaginary friend – “Hahaver Ani” (literally meaning, “The Friend is Me”). Other topics include the wheels that turn in his head while he writes songs – "Mekhonat Haktiva" ("Typewriter"), philosophical questions about the nature of man “Enoshi” (“Human”) and finding his place in a world where science and the soul collide "Tehi Hanefesh” (“Long Live the Soul”). Here, Fortis may be more philosophical and humanistic than crazy, but there is no doubt that he has hit one of his creative peaks.

3. Hard Magic – Rotem Or

In this fast-food culture, musicians like Rotem Or shouldn’t be taken for granted. Or belongs to a rare breed of artists, artists who take their time during the creative process. She was showered with praise and declared to be the “next big Indie-music hope” when she released her first EP back in 2003, but since then Or continued to hone her writing, develop her songs and expand her music into new, unexpected directions. In this, her debut album, we discovered a mature, ripe artist with an amazingly well-crystallized creation of delicate, magical electro-folk, complete with elegant writing and a rare and beautiful angelic voice. The nine-year wait has ended with the knowledge the Rotem Or is a musician in a league of her own.

2. Robin – Efrat Ben Zur

Putting poetry to music, especially the poetry of a grim giant like Emily Dickinson, is no easy task. In order to set the melody, you must delve deep into the heart and soul of the poet, and there you can begin to understand their meaning. The text must also be treated with the utmost delicacy, lest any deviation or misinterpretation destroy the poem completely. Efrat Ben Zur has plenty of experience putting poems to music, including pieces by the great Israeli poets Rachel and Yona Wallach. But there is something in this meeting between Ben Zur and poet Emily Dickinson that works perfectly. The 126-year gap between the melancholy poet from the 19th century and the singer with the thin and delicate voice is reduced drastically by this magical and enchanting record, one that sees Ben Zur (assisted by Omer Hershamn’s wonderful musical production) gracefully take Dickinson’s writing and serve it up with silk gloves in what is her best work to date.

1. In the Morning Light – Geva Alon

After a decade of working and being on the road, Geva Alon is already in an elite league of his own on the indie scene. The singer-songwriters he has inspired will come and go, and the comparisons to Neil Young will probably never end, but the kibbutznik from Maabarot continues his ongoing trip through the width and breadth of Americana, sending us postcards in the shape of LP records and releasing velvety music that transports us to distant lands. “In the Morning Light” maintains the high standards Alon has set for himself: warm sound, gorgeous polished production, tight playing and lyrics full of emotion that may be thousands of miles away but still resonate close to the heart.