Asaf Avidan’s golden mix of old and new

Gold Shadow

The music, the lyrics, and that voice - every element of this album is in beautiful harmony. The way the music and the story develop as the albums plays from beginning to end is unique to this particular album. It is one of the rare occasions that I followed the flow of the songs naturally, without wondering about their order, which I often do. (The order of the songs, the musical development of an album seems to me an extremely significant element that either makes or breaks its whole flow). What at first begins with oldies-inspired songs, grows into heavier symphonies and lyrics. As you listen, you feel that the album is growing older, like a person would. This, in itself, is worth experiencing.

Some songs like "Ode to my Thalamus" feel nostalgic in their music (I feel there is a very similar melody out there already but just can't put my finger on it). Yet, its lyrics are poetic, original and contemporary which makes this song a definite "modern oldie". Avidan's lyrics seem simple, but they are difficult to grasp once you pay a little more attention. They make you think and, at times, even check a few definitions on Google. Before you read the following lyrics: "Thalamus" is "a large, dual lobed mass of grey matter buried under the cerebral cortex. It is involved in sensory perception and regulation of motor functions" while "helicases" are "a class of enzymes vital to all living organisms. Their main function is to unpackage an organism's genes."

All signs point to that I'm getting old
The waves are rising and I take that dive
To hold a breath is not to be alive...

....My Thalamus is growing down into my tongue
And all I taste is pain in every kiss and song
I know this story, and I know it well
The cracks are showing in my pearly shell
Outside I'm shaking and I feel them chills
There go both of my Achilles Heels
I fall down naked waiting for the storm
My arms are open, waiting to transform
The birds go flying, I hear them cry
I know it's coming but I don't know why
It's taking us apart, this Helicase of love
We're nothing but post-modern art, what were we thinking of.

Accurately described in NPR First Listen (where you can listen to the entire album), "Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan are all in there, but they add up to a wholly original sound, with songs that are beautifully written and fervently performed." Avidan's voice is actually very similar to Janis Joplin's and his songs a back-and-forth between Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan. In fact, the album feels so inspired by older music that, at times, it walks the thin line of "sameness." Fortunately, it never crosses that line. "Over My Head" feels like it could be one of Bob Dylan's songs, but its seamless combination of "oldies" sounds makes the song only take a pit stop by Bob Dylan only to continue on its journey from 2015 to the 1950s. "Let's Call It Fate" could also be Bob Dylan's except for the traces of pop which are more distinctly Avidan. Truly, it is a very contemporary, entertaining version of some of the world's greatest older music.

The album's title track "Gold Shadow" is one of my favorites, a somewhat cryptic song about elusive freedom and final submission...

But now there's a girl out in a boat
Her arms are outstretched and she's barely afloat
There's a man on the shore, a rope in his hands
It's tied to the boat, and he's pulling as hard as he can
Not to bring her to him,but to pull the whole shore
and the whole world with it to her open door

...the freedom of innocence and its irrecoverable loss.

here was a time before all the leaves
covered the beauty of Adam & Eve
And they were blind, and they were free
To be whatever they wanted to be
But now they are just a prayer in a song
And he is so sorry for all that went wrong.

The song "My Tunnels are Long and Dark These Days" is one of my favorites as well. Because of a hint of similarity in its beginning to "Skyfall" by Adele, the song sounded rather familiar. Yet, as with the entire album, the song takes its own path, musically and lyrically. In many ways Avidan's album, because of his distinct voice which sounds like Bob Dylan as much as Janis Joplin or even Adele, reminded me of the film I'm Not There about Bob Dylan, one of the best and most originally creative biopics I have seen, where Dylan is portrayed through a range of six very distinct personalities - rather than one man - each representing a specific period in Dylan's life and also his inherent spiritual freedom. I feel the same about Avidan, listening to his album. He seems to morph into different singers, genders, moods while keeping his distinct sound intact.

The song where Asaf Avidan's daring originality can be truly heard is "Bang Bang". Other than its "heard-before" title, this sing is all him.

I love you like the roots in the sand
I love you like god loves his plan
I love you like death love a man
I love you like a gun in my hand
Bang Bang Bang I'm back again

I love you like scalpel loves flesh
I love you like blood that is fresh
I love you like a jew on the run
I love you like my hand on a gun
Bang Bang Bang I'm back again

Ooh Ooh I can't think about anything but you
Ooh Ooh that's how I love. Love. Love you

I love you like chisel and stone
I love you like needle and bone
I love you like a god loves his son
I love you like my hand on a gun
Bang Bang Bang I'm back again