The 8 Best Alternative Israeli Tracks of 2014

This year produced songs that are miraculous, sensuous, sharp - and bittersweet.

Amir Ascher
The cover of Totemo's single 'Heavy As My Dreams.'
The cover of Totemo's single 'Heavy As My Dreams.'Credit: Courtesy
Amir Ascher

It is not quite as soft, and is a bit older, but it is the same sound, and the circles that constitute this song and the previous one overlap in two places: the incredible Roi Avital, a member of the band and the producer of Rotem Or of Totemo, and the label, BLDG5 Records of Anova, which is no less than a local miracle. It moves me and fills me with hope, how such a soft, compassionate and loving sound can come from such an aggressive and troubled place.

What a gloomy, agonizing and exhausting war it was. Just like all those before it and yet different as well ... My Israeli song of the year is this one, with the Ehud Banai-style sound of its guitar and the meditative, “shanti-style" Israeli softness that belongs to it so much, the combination of the yin and the yang of the two big hearts that create it, and the special calm it inspires. All these succeed in holding onto events and making memory a little more tolerable and human.

We’ll start with the Israeli song played the most often in my living room over the past year. It is important to note that the only indication of its Israeli-ness is the fact that its creators pay municipal taxes to a municipality that flies the Israeli flag in its offices. The song could have come from New Zealand, Britain, France or any other place where a sensitive and beautiful woman lives. A woman who was asked for something as heavy as her dreams, and whose taste and ability match those of her talented musical producer. I have listened to this song dozens, maybe hundreds of times this year, and thanks to its perfect (yes, perfect) sound, it is still as fresh, intriguing, pleasurable and gorgeous as the first time.

It turns out that this blog post was the first to discover many of the songs that became big hits this year, including “Sailing.” “Folly Tree” is also one of our discoveries, though not to the extent that it received enough oxygen to ignite the spark. Still, this, too, is one of ours, and it is amazingly lovely.

Noam Helfer and his music are lively and sensual, electronic and acoustic, hot and cold. Helfer released a debut EP this year (once again, on the amazing record label BLDG5), brimful of excellent material. We hope he will release an album, or at least a new EP, in 2015.

In this high-speed era of instant hits and well-calculated stimulation, finding a song with real uniqueness and significance is like finding a member of a species that is becoming extinct. This is another discovery of this blog, and a song of the kind that we have almost forgotten we deserve.

After the tragic death of Gabriel Balachsan, one of the most powerful and courageous artists we ever knew, his brother Yedidia put together a collection of material that was supposed to be on Gabriel's next album, and created “Smile Now” from those sketches. Gabriel’s ability to transcend the chaos within him, to look at it realistically and describe it in his strong, rich manner, with anger, exhausted resignation and chilling detail – in the same way he could express the great compassion and love of life and of people that were part of his afflicted soul – all this has created another important album that brings home the extent of the loss and terrible tragedy of his having left us.

It has been long since an artist here challenged our drowsy mainstream and shook it up a bit. Nir Shlomo wraps his excellent and surprising lyrics with music that is accessible to most people, creating a drink that goes down nicely, but with a sharp, smart aftertaste. A blue-chip musical stock of 2015.

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