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Yoav

Charmed & Strange

(Verve Forecast; US: 29 Jan 2008; UK: 7 Jan 2009)

Debuting musician Yoav compares himself to an equation of “Beck meets Buckley meets Bjork”.  Those are pretty big shoes to fill, and with his introduction to the music world, Charmed & Strange, he has set himself up to pale in those comparisons.  With inventive guitar techniques, Yoav is armed with his pen and instrument determined to find a fan base, any fan base.  Amongst weak lines and themes, he opens his debut demanding listeners to “Adore, adore / Bow down before”.  Sadly, there is nothing to cherish about an album that lacks the very charm forcefully implied in its title, and instead resembles mediocrity at its best.


Charmed & Strange is stripped down to the bare essentials as a platform to showcase the debuting Yoav.  Albums this simplistic can be wonderful and intriguing, but there has to be at least one remarkable element.  Unfortunately for this record, the emphasis placed on Yoav is too much for him to bear alone.  His voice isn’t strong enough to carry the burden of eleven tracks, and in some cases it’s hard to tell whether he’s singing or sing-talking.  Boasting imaginative craft, his dedication to his technique’s style is apparent, but in every other facet the album takes a downward spiral.


The album’s music is primarily composed with a single guitar.  Adjustments utilizing the guitar create all the sounds, from plucking to sliding along the strings and even concocting drum beats on the guitar’s body. The sounds and beats are then recorded into loops, and Yoav never relies on a drum machine.  Hearing the effect is quite impressive, and credit has to be given to this experimentation.  The reverberations and harmonies displayed are an interesting trick for Yoav to have in his back pocket.  But the wow factor only lasts briefly and can’t conceal the problems lurking within the rest of the album’s components


According to MySpace research, Yoav’s writing influences are Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, and Eminem.  That’s quite the mosaic of lyricists.  And the difference between those artists and Yoav is that when listening to Dylan or even Eminem, you can actually feel the sweat that they’ve poured into the lyrics and thus truly believe their experiences and overall message.  Yoav’s lyrics are problematic because he’s trying too hard to sound cool, and as a result his words become colorless and superficial.  Lyrics range from “This is the story that time forgot / And though some names have changed / Some names some names have not” to “You’ll be nuttin’ but a club thing / What would you say to be paid to be one of the beautiful?” These words don’t convey any sort of believable expression. It feels like Yoav has gotten lost in the words’ physicality when he’d be more successful if he got lost in the act of honestly revealing himself instead. 


In regards to the musicality, it’s hard to tell whether some of these tracks are supposed to be lounge/club anthems or acoustic pop.  The songs never hit hard enough to be a club beat, and never plunge deep enough to affect the listener in any way.  Songs like “Adore, Adore” and “Club Thing” take themselves so seriously it’s almost laughable, and “Beautiful Lie” steals the opening riff of Underworld’s “Born Slippy”.  However, there’s some minimal excitement in the track “There Is Nobody”.  Once this track began, I actually screamed out “Finally!” Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the album has proved to not only have a pulse, but some testosterone as well!  Strong, heavy plucking supported by a sexual and pounding drum line awaken the album from its comatose haze.  And Yoav’s voice is best set against this type of backdrop.  He can croon the backup vocals, and the speak/sing thing he frequents works well during the verses. 


As refreshing as this track is, it doesn’t fit in with its surroundings and sticks out like a sore thumb.  What could have been regarded as a success turns out weak within the compass of the album, because the track is not cohesive with the remainder’s tone.  Furthermore, the charm factor in the title doesn’t accurately represent the album, while the lyrics and sounds come off as uninspired and predictable. The last track is a cover of the untouchable “Where Is My Mind?” by the Pixies, and drives the point home further by concluding a weak album with a song that another musician wrote.  I appreciate that Yoav is exploring with instrumentation and reminding musicians that music can be found and created anywhere.  Yet, I keep accidentally writing the album title backwards as Strange & Charmed, because it’s left me with an odd aftertaste and confused reaction.

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