Making Noise

The current issue of American Jewish Life magazine has a feature on “Women Who Rock,” including Sophie Milman, Marissa Nadler, Regina Spektor and Neshama Carlbach. In an introductory essay, Mordechai Shinefield writes, “most times the religion and gender of these singers are incidental. When I listen to Sophie Milman I’m not thinking of synagogue or Hebrew school; I’m reminded of smoky jazz clubs and speakeasies. Which is to say, these artists are more than the sum of their categories.”

The just-released album from Yael Naim — who’s so far best known forher song “New Soul” being used as the soundtrack for a ubiquitous Mac commercial — features a “piano-driven” cover of the Britney Spears song “Toxic.” The new album’s booklet is printed in both English and Hebrew, and the songs are sung in both English and Hebrew, with some French thrown in. Naim is the first Israeli to make it to the Billboard Top 10.

Basya Schechter has just released her fifth studio album under the name Pharaoh’s Daughter. “Haran gets brazen and thumpy, with
infectious melodies providing excuses for post-punk girly abandon,” says the Jerusalem Post. Despite this, somehow “at least four of the disc’s tracks are based on traditional Sabbath table hymns….Overall, Haran feels like a return to Schechter’s earlier, more Suzanne Vega-influenced songs, but at the same time, the album probably reaches further into the bag of ethnic tricks than any Caucasian-developed song cycle has before.”

On the more canonical side of things, New York magazine profiles Bette Midler upon the opening of her Vegas extravaganza, The Showgirl Must Go On: “Midler knows she doesn’t possess the instrument that would allow her to just stand at a microphone in velvet and diamonds, like, say, fellow Semitic icon Barbra Streisand. ‘She sings like a bird. I don’t,’ Midler once told a friend.” . The New York Times is pleased to find that the former Miss M has “lost little of the verve, bawdiness and originality that first captivated gay audiences back in the early 1970s.”

Off in another medium, NJ painter Janet Boltax’s exhibit The Jewish Identity Project: Portraits and Commentary is on display at the West Orange JCC through May 4th. Feeling conflicted about her religious identity, Boltax decided to explore what Judaism meant to other people. The resulting 18 portraits include Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews; African-American Jews, Jews by choice, an Iranian Jew, and two self-portraits, displayed alongside interviews with the subjects.

— Eryn Loeb