A while back, I reviewed a particular CD and said that while I enjoyed it, I didn’t think it was going to be a candidate for album of the year. A reader challenged me to name my pick for album of the year and I promised I would name my favorite at some later point in time. Well, looks like that day has finally arrived.
Or maybe not. I couldn’t do it. There were so many terrific songs on so many different albums that I couldn’t narrow it down to just one album. Also, as anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, we are a diverse group of writers with very different tastes. So instead of just reading about my personal favorites, it made sense for our writers to share what they loved.
A few things you ought to know. For starters, we all have real lives and no matter how much we would like to, we don’t just spend our days listening to CDs. There were dozens of albums that have been released in the last twelve months and we haven’t heard every one of them. We can only name our favorites from the ones we actually heard.
Second, we only considered albums that have come out in the past twelve months. So while we may have loved Boruch Levine’s Chosson HaTorah or Yossi Green’s 8th Note, none of those songs will appear here because they came out before that date.
Third, we pretty much concentrated on mainstream albums. For the most part we skipped singles and free downloads.
Fourth: Having listed all those rules, we broke a few of them. There were a few songs we loved so much that our writers included them even if they weren’t on the original list!
Fifth: A special thank you to guest poster Gruntig of gruntig.blogspot.com for adding in his selections!
Sixth: A special thank you to our surprise guest poster. Want to know who it is? Read on!
Finally, don’t get upset if we skipped your favorites. This was just a bunch of writers saying which songs of the past twelve months they really enjoyed. Were there others you think are worthy of mentioning? Feel free to let us know your picks! We always love hearing from our readers!!
I wasn’t quite sure how to rank my songs, so I just kept it alphabetical.
Al Tirah (Kol Noar Boys Choir): Judging by the comic-book-like cover of Kol Noar Boys Choir, you’d never expect to hear a song like this from Kol Noar. Just goes to show you how talented and versatile Mo Kiss really is. This old school slow song with gorgeous harmonies has been showing up in Bais Yaakov concerts for years. And for good reason. It’s a beauty.
Baruch Hashem (Kol Noar Boys Choir): Yes, another Kol Noar song. This song makes me smile every time I hear it. Positive message, great arrangement, fun music. Love it!!
Binyan Hasimcha (MBD): Amazing!! Everything about this song works and I love everything about it. Absolutely, positively, awesome and my hands down favorite on a very good album.
Chasoif (Benny Friedman, Yitzy Spinner, Yisroel Werdyger): I know we didn’t include free downloads on our list, but I just could not overlook this touching song by Yitzy Spinner. Everything about it worked on so many levels. It was appropriate, timely, gorgeous, haunting and more than just a song. It was a shining example of how at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who you are, what nusach you daven or where you come from. We are all related and we need to be there for each other. I won’t mention the many people involved in this project, because none of them did it for publicity. They all just wanted to do something, to help in any way that they could. Mi K’amcha Yisroel. If you haven’t heard this song it’s available as a free download from mostlymusic or go to YouTube.
Hashem Yimloch (Dovid Stein): People had it in for this album before it ever hit the shelf because of the ever changing release dates. But truth is there were a number of very good songs on this album. This beautiful Yitzy Waldner composition was, for me, the hands down winner on this album. Just gorgeous!
Modim Anachnu (Shloime Taussig): If you haven’t heard this beautiful Yossi Green song, you must be living under a rock. Taussig does a great job and the lyrics fit the feel of the music so perfectly.
Shmoy (YBC): If you don’t like YBC, you won’t like this song. But if you do, this is cheerful, in your face, vintage YBC. A pity this CD didn’t come out before the summer or it would have been used in dozens of videos and color war songs. Honorable mention to Kah Ribon, the last song on the CD. Gorgeous!
Vehi She’amda (Yaakov Shwekey): I don’t know why it took me so long to hear this song. Actually, I do. I wasn’t going to buy a CD or DVD with only one new song on it. But what a song!! A current favorite in our house – gets sung every Friday night and is constantly being played on the piano.
Window In Heaven (Shea Rubenstein): The song alone was beautiful and touching. The video just blew it out of the stratosphere. Haven’t heard it yet? It’s on YouTube . This song is a perfect example of how quality ingredients yield a top notch product. Yitzy Waldner composition + Leib Yaacov Rigler arrangement + Yitzy Spinner choir + Avi Newmark production = one smash hit!!
Yerushalayim (Yosef Chaim Shwekey): This Moshe Laufer song was my favorite on a very respectable debut album from Shwekey Jr. It’s good enough that I would have placed it at the beginning of the album, maybe even used it as the title track. I look forward to hearing a lot more from Yosef Chaim!
Yovo (Miami Boys Choir): This fun song with great arrangements is absolutely contagious. Yerachmiel Begun proves he hasn’t lost his touch.
Window in Heaven – Shea Rubenstein. Not only was this song a beautiful composition musically, but the story behind it has such depth and love within its confines.
Yovo – Miami Boys Choir. Begun hit it on the nail with this composition. He went all out with arrangements and tweaked it to perfection!
Oleinu – ABD. This composition blows my mind, with the voice of child soloist Yoni Stern, whom has possibly the greatest child voice to date. Bonus: first they put out the original version and then followed up with an a capella version for Sefira.
Yigdal – Shloime Kaufman & Baruch Levine. Baruch Levine created another Vezakeni with this song. Truly a masterpiece and soon to be a favorite on everyone’s iPod.
Al Tira – Kol Noar Boys Choir. Known by most seminary girls, this song has amazing harmonies and melody that Kol Noar perfects. Just ask your local seminary girl!
Mi Shemamin – Shloime Taussig. This composition by Mutty Illowitz is the cream of the crop among Taussig’s handful of amazing songs from his debut album.
Hamalach - YBC4. I know it’s new, but I’m telling you, this song will stick with you for a long time.
Shmoy – YBC 4. This song is the next Kol Hamispalel and then some. It’s so catchy, you’ll be singing it for years to come.
The Sheichet’s Picks:
This is a very hard topic for me because I tend to listen to albums as opposed to songs. Even individual songs for me are affected by the album as a whole. There were so many albums I enjoyed this year including those by established artists like Shwekey Live in Caesaria (which as an album is my absolute favorite of the year), MBC’s Yovo and Yeedle’s Lev Echad to Newer artist albums such as Werdyger’s Bayis Neeman, Kol Noar, ABD, Yosef Chaim, Taussig and Weber. The positions these hold as albums though are because of the albums as a whole. By contrast, the songs I will list here as my favs of the year are based solely on the songs themselves. I give them to you in no particular order and again, I attempt not to be influenced by my enjoyment of the albums they are on as a whole.
Yeedle, Lev Echad: Ashrecha – In this album I felt that Yeedle has finally achieved the long sought after perfect synthesis between experimenting with new fresh sounds and building songs that are accessible to the masses. No small feat for the album as a whole. As a single though, one song stands out to me as the ideal blend between the adventurous and the traditional and that is “Ashrecha”. It has a very current appeal without at all jeopardizing the Jewish sound… and let’s face it – this song is catchier than the swine flu.
Yisroel Werdyger, Bayis Neeman: Ki Hidlakti and L’cha Dodi - I frequently listen to this album on Friday afternoons as I find it really puts me in a Shabbosdike mood. These 2 songs are the pinnacle of setting that mood and in addition they show the hartzigkeit, the vocal sweetness and the perfect execution that have me convinced that we will be seeing amazing things from this new artist in the future. The fact that they stick out even on an album of such caliber really speaks mountains for them.
Shea Rubenstein, Ohavti: Ribono Shel Olam and Window in Heaven – From the moment I heard Shea, I found him to be a breath of fresh air. He presented something very personal and different both in voice and style. I found that Ribono Shel Olam, an absolute gem of a song by Ari Goldwag, really put forward his vocal abilities. Windows in Heaven, of course, needs no explanation. Besides for being well produced and performed, I think we all fell in love with the very personal nature of this song. After listening to it time and time again, as well as seeing the music video, we all felt that we knew and could relate to Shea. P.S. – my opinion about this was not at all influenced by Mrs. Rubenstein’s super delicious potato kugel, lol.
ABD, ABD: Oleinu – When this group came out of nowhere, they turned all of our heads. We were all extremely impressed by their masterful blend of solid vocal harmonies, well written material, sensitive and sensible arrangements and no nonsense straight-from-the-heart Jewish feeling. This song really showcases all of those qualities to a tee and the successful Sefirah version didn’t hurt in showing that even when you take away all the frills, this song still stands the test of excellence. It doesn’t either hurt that these guys are as people every bit as solid, non-egotistical and honest as their music is.
MBC, Yovo: Yovo – The high expectations set for this album long in the making made it almost impossible that they would be met. Once again, Yerachmiel Begun surprises us in an album that met every one of those high expectations and then some. This album easily shows why MBC has been around so long and why they are just as (or more) relevant today as they ever were. For me one song sticks out and that is the title track Yovo. Why this song when there are so many gems on the album? I can’t really explain it – all I know is I can’t get it out of my head and I can never hear it too many times. It just has that special something.
Kol Noar, Kol Noar: Avinu Malkeinu – While their sound is not as seasoned as the likes of MBC, Kol Noar more than makes up for it in the arenas of originality and ingenuity. I particularly liked their ability to really embrace the genres they were using without losing the Jewish feel. Their songwriting had a lot to do with why almost a year later their album is still oft played in my car. Of particular note was “Avinu Malkeinu” which features an absolutely breathtaking melody and was arranged perfectly to really let the melody stand out. There’s no getting tired of this one, and trust me I know because my kids have made me play it back to back many times before.
Yossele Rosenblatt, Od Yosef Chai 2: Ano Avdoh – While the album as a whole was in my view the most important one out this year, it is the song “Ano Avdoh” that stands head and shoulders above every other work. While complex to the extreme, this song never breaks out of the melodic catchiness that plays a large role in why Reb Yossele’s compositions have weathered the ever changing winds of musical tastes for over a century. This purchase of this album was well worth it for this song alone, so the rest was all cream…and what delightful cream it is!
Shwekey, Ad Bli Dai: Mimekomcha – Lots of really awesome songs on this album… “Ad Bli Dai”, “Veshochanti” & “Areivim” are all really great songs and I’m sure they will be super popular at weddings, but the one that stands out to me most is “Mimekomcha” because it is so progressive and baked just perfectly (right up to the tenderly placed maraschino cherry placed just so at the very tippy top) but without losing any hartzigkeit.
MBD, Kulom Ahuvim: Beinyan Hasimcha – Again, so many really amazing mind boggling songs here – the simple, catchy “Kulom Ahuvim”, the Yossi Green Gem “Uveyerushalayim”, The Lipa Lyrical treasure “Modim” and of course the super-driven complex dance tune “Omar Rabbi Akivah”. Yeedle did an absolutely fresh and masterful job in producing this album. One song however stands out to me above all others and that is “Beinyan Hasimcha”. Not because of it’s melody or arrangement or even the whacky fun vocals of Razel. It stands out to me quite frankly simply because of the lyrics. When you listen to the words and think about them, this grows from being simply a song into a tool that can change your whole bad day around.
My Fav5 from 2009:
Yeedle: Ilon: As Yeedle put it himself, a new Shiru Lamelech. Brilliant.
Berry Weber: Ver is Der Vaiber: A song full of energy with the great Lipa touch.
Yossi Mayer: Beni: This is a great song that touched my heart, but you do have to know Yiddish to appreciate it.
Kol Noar: Kulanu K’echad: Great new style never seen in Jewish music before. Refreshing.
Shloime Daskal: Elokai Neshomo: The song of thanks, shows the great power and range Shloime has.
Concerts are great to attend, but would not appear in my Fav5, because a recording or a video does not capture the greatest of a show. Singing old songs in new ways is very refreshing, but then again, not as exciting as new songs, not a Fav5’er.
Special Guest Poster – Gruntig:
Songs are rated according to how much I enjoy listening to the particular song, with 10 being the highest.
Vani Asher (10) – Yeedle: In general I thought this album was fantastic, as I awarded it best album of the year in a review I did at the end of last year. But I believe that this particular song with its arrangements is head and shoulders above all the others.
Vehi Sheamda (9) – Yaakov Shwekey: Tremendous song.
Reb Mendel’s Nigun (9) – Avraham Fried: A great freilicher gishmaker nigun. The difference between a Chasidic nigun and a typical good song from today’s Jewish music? A nigun is geshmak, a song is nice. Reb Mendel’s nigun, I think, demonstrates this very well.
Emor and Yisroel Beyachad (8) – Yisroel Werdyger: Another album that I wrote about very positively last year. I’m not sure which of these two songs I like better, so I’ll just pick both.
Tracht Gut (8) – Lipa Shmeltzer: The small clips of Lipa’s Yiddish version of the song is great.
Special Moments (8) – Shloime Dachs: Shloime and his son do a nice job singing this combination of beautiful oldies as well as some good new ones.
Barchu (8) – Kol Noar Boys Choir: This was definitely a very original album by an original styled choir. I don’t have one dominant favorite song that I can clearly pick. Among my favorite to listen to on this album would be Barchu, Havdalah and a few others.
Pischu Li (9) – Lipa Schmeltzer: While sitting at the concert, the part I actually enjoyed the most was Boruch Chait’s performance. When listening now to the CD/DVD I enjoy the Pirchei Boys Choir the most. One other note, I did not realize the tremendous performance by Lipa’s Poshiter Yid, until I saw the DVD. Really amazing performance there.
He Na (7) – Shmuel Brazil, Abish Brodt: Good old style pleasant Jewish music.
Song Of Our Travels (9) – Yosef Chaim Shwekey
Atoh Kidashtoh (8) – YBC 4
Ovinu (8) – Shwekey
SURPRISE!! Guest Poster – Benny Friedman
You read that right…Benny Friedman!! Despite being busy putting the finishing touches on his debut album, Benny took a few minutes to share some of his favorites.
Yiddish Medley (Avraham Fried)
Yehee Rutzoin (Berry Weber)
R’ Yochanan (Dovid Stein )
Barchu (Kol Noar)
B’inyan Ha’simcha (MBD)
Kesorim (Shea Rubenstein)
Hashabbos (Shloime Daskal)
Hareini Mezamen (Shloime Taussig)
Tshuvah (Yaakov Shwekey)
Kel Hakovod (Yisroel Werdyger)
Hashleich (Yosef Chaim)
Best fast song of the year: B’inyan Ha’simcha
Best slow song of the year: V’hi She’amda
Jewish Music Reporter:
Here are my picks for the top songs of the year. While I’ll be adding which songs I think are overall from the best of the last year, it’s really a story in some cases of albums that were very impressive. I’m doing this in the order the albums came out.
Ahallel (Yeedle): I wasn’t sure between Lev Echad and Ahallel, but Ahallel is such a great Chassidic rock song, unlike one we have heard in a really long time. Lev Echad is the easy answer, but Ahallel is what really sticks with me.
Bayis Neeman (Yisroel Werdyger): This is a great song, start to finish, just like the CD. Best debut CD of any other artist to hit the scene in the last couple of years (some people might think I’m nuts, but in some ways even better then Gertner’s debut, which I also thought was great).
Live in Caesaria (Yaakov Shwekey): Allthough Anovim is a good song, and to hear it with a 50 piece orchestra is good, it wasn’t an original song, which Vhi Sheamdah was, and boy is that a stunner. Double points for putting a NEW song on a concert CD.
Modim Anachnu (Shea Rubenstein): I think this was a very underrated song, I loved it when I first heard it and I still love it. It’s a GREAT Yitzy Waldner song.
Non Stop Lipa (Lipa Shmeltzer): I can’t get enough of Lipa’s cover of 8th Day’s amazing Tracht Gut” song.
Barchu (Kol Noar Boys Choir): This infectious song has an incredible beat and is one of the best produced songs on the CD. If there is one song that sticks with you from this album, it’s this one.
Yovo (Miami Boys Choir): Yovo really shows that Yerachmiel 1) is here to play serious ball, and 2) can merge classic Miami sound with more modern styles.
Oleinu (ABD): If I was ranking these songs this would be in the top 3 of the year. If you never heard it GO the free a capella version is online somewhere. It’s amazing.
Yehi (Shloimie Taussig): Shloime’s CD was a great album, but Yehi wasn’t just great, it was FUN!!
Kol Yisroel (Shloimie Kaufman): Many people still don’t even know about this CD. Some nice songs on this album, but the stand out for me is the (better) Yitzy Waldner Araivim from Michoel Pruzanksy, although here it’s called Kol Yisroel. This is my all time favorite Pruz song now.
Be’elokim (Berry Weber): He came out with Be’elokim months before anything ever hit the shelves, but after 14 songs, this is still the best by a mile!! (Although Aheim is also close running for best song of year).
The Event (Lipa Schmeltzer): If you weren’t there you can’t really get what it was like when it happened. But it was during this song that MBD, a surprise at the concert, walked on stage in the middle of Lipa singing Just One Shabbos in Yiddish. This goes up there with Shlomo Carlebach coming on stage at HASC. 6 Listen to the crowd in this song, it was magical.
Veshochanti (Shwekey): I don’t have much to say about this song other then it grabbed me the first time I heard it and it hasn’t let go since. It’s so catchy and fun. I’m still hooked.
Omar Rabbi Akiva (MBD): There are a ton of great songs on this CD, but this one PUMPS, it just rocks like crazy. MBD is still the king, people, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This guy IS Jewish music.
Here are Yossi Zweig of TheJewishInsights.com‘s picks.
MBD- Kulam Ahuvim – B’inyan Ha’simcha
Shwekey – Ad Bli Dai – Ovinu
Yerachmeil & Aaron Razel – Secret of Shabbos – Bli Eitzev
Shlomo Katz – Malei Olam – Shma Koleinu
Shloime Taussig – Modim Anachnu – Modim Anachnu
Shloime Kaufman feat. Pruz – Avodas Tzedaka – Kol Yisroel
Yosef Chaim – Lo Lefached – Chaverim
MBC – Yavoh – Ayom V’norah
ABD – ABD – Oleinu
Six13 – Yesh Chadash – Ki L’olam Chasdo