Just for a brief moment the frontcover of This Heart (2013) will undoubtedly make you think of P.J. Harvey. Although the lead vocalist of Nehedar, Emilia Cataldo and P.J. Harvey both have a deep love for New York City the similarities also end about there. For instance, the well known autumnal raw voice of Harvey is in strong contrast with the voice of Cataldo, whose voice is far more polished and controlled. Additionally, almost everything what is known about Cataldo breaths of cultural diversity. Cataldo is based in the midst of the multicultural New York, comes from a culturally diverse family and also holds a degree in Jewish Mysticism. This all echoes through in the music of Nehedar. Because of the foregoing the band is often associated with the Israeli community in the United States but can’t be pinned down as an ethnic specialized band for electonica, indie-rock and jazz are frequently added to their music. This Heart is my first introduction to Nehedar though it must be said that the band are not new to the scene, for it’s already their sixth independently produced album.
This Heart counts thirteen tracks and, to cut to the chase, can be split up into three parts. An incoherent beginning, a solid mid-section and a settling conclusion. During the the first third of the album serene ballads are interspersed with uptempo catchiness. The opening tracks are too isolated from each other for styles are interstachend in an instant as, for example, traditional klezmer fiddles on ‘Take This World’ are easily put aside for the electronica infused ‘What’s Becoming’. On the one hand the diversity is nice, on the other hand it doesn’t lead to something constructive. On top of this tracks are cleanly produced which to my taste sounds very imitative. The tables slowly turn with ‘On Killing’ which is a tense story about U.S. soldier returning home from Afghanistan. Grim lines such as,‘The shoes he can fill are bloody and out of date, remarkable skill to filter the world through hate’ are accompanied by a sorrowful military trumpet and drum. ‘This Heart’ is a decent pop song that combines a sense of urgency with Mediterranean calmness. The title track can be seens as a definitive turning point, solid ballads such as ‘Something to Call Mine’ and ‘I Used to Have Friends’ are alternated with more pop rock oriented songs like ‘Why Do They Tell Me’ and ‘A Dollar’s Fine’. Last track marks the more faithful side of Nehedar and indeed includes some pretty roots music with an inevitable banjo. However on the religious ‘Self Fulfilling Prophecy’, that starts off as an Aimee Mann track in a higher pitch, does contain interesting touch. When hitting the chorus, Kraftwerk like synths surprisingly back up the remainder of the track. Hereafter, the album gradually comes to a close by virtue of two bright pop songs.
After several spins I have to conclude that the foundations of the album, that is the first third, remain very shaky. The outline of the first few tracks doesn’t lead to something and authentic and are very cleanly produced. Dullness and diversity go hand in hand and, to be honest, almost stopped me from writing this review. At long last I’m glad I pushed through. Eventually This Heart becomes a mature and neat pop album revolving around musical hybridity that is derived from multi-ethnic Big Apple. Notably, also Cataldo’s vocals become more powerful and lively as the album progresses towards the end. The core of This Heart is therefore solidly shaped but without any sharp edges. Lyricky however the album is spasmodically noir with does compensate the whole a bit. I would recommend this latest Nehedar album to anyone who enjoys Sheryl Crow, Suzanne Vega or Kristin Hersh. That is, if you want your record collection to excel in decency.
Label: Independent release
1. Bells of the City (02:41)
2. Take This World (03:44)
3. Weight of Your Bones (03:27)
4. What’s Becoming (03:45)
5. On Killing (03:34)
6. This Heart (03:03)
7. Something to Call Mine (04:09)
8. Why Do They Tell Me (03:23)
9. Used to Have Friends (03:10)
10. A Dollar’s Fine (03:35)
11. Self Fulfilling Prophecy (03:59)
12. To Be Small (03:32)
13. Bring It Up (03:19)
Nehedar – Pretty Young Thing (2011)
Nehedar – Take It Apart (2012)
Emilia Cataldo on Twitter
Review by Wander Meulemans // VOR050713
With thanks to James Moore from Independent Music Promotions