home listen reviews
Noa Babayof


Israeli songwriter Noa Babayof is fascinated with 1960s music--Dylan, the Beatles, and Joni Mitchell--to the point where her American debut From a Window to a Wall sounds like the kind of fading vinyl LP you might find at a church sale, complete with a soulful, longhaired girl on the cover, probably barefoot. She fits the style to a tee, too. Her soft, slightly unfocused voice has the translucent purity of Vashti Bunyan, the infinitesimal foreign-ness of Nico. She has even enlisted most of acid folk Espers to accompany her, as well as Fern Knight's Margie Wienk and Vashti's go-to folk fiddler, Katt Hernandez. Without a time machine, it's hard to imagine how she could sound more flower-child authentic.

Not that that's a bad thing. Witness the gentle melancholy, the delicate peacenik splendor of "Marching Band." The song's intricate guitar picking is all folk-derived, yet there's an orchestral heft in surges and washes of strings, as well as a bit of torch jazz in the half-tone shifts of melody.  Its mild reproach could as well apply to 1960s Vietnam as to modern day Iraq, and yet it feels timelessly fresh, of every decade and none.   

Just as good, but clearly more traditional, is "Indian Ocean," Babayof's pristine voice pushing through webs of guitar and swells of sweet violin, the merest touch more earthbound than Just Another Diamond Day-era Bunyan. 

Babayof's supporting cast--Jessica Weeks on flute in "A Song for Me," Wienk on cello and bass, Jesse Sparhawk on mandolin and harp, and fellow Israeli Amit Erez on additional guitar--is quite strong. They play '60s folk with utter naturalness and spontaneity, erasing the referential quotation marks that might attach to well-worn forms with their obvious joy and sincerity. Still, the most striking tune is clearly the one where Babayof stands alone, her voice doubled and tripled in complex minor harmonies for the almost madrigal "Them That Are Writing These Songs." It's at once stunningly simple and dazzlingly nuanced...the kind of song that would be arresting in any decade and especially welcome now.  • Jennifer Kelly

Noa Babayof

listen to clips      return to covers

noa's myspace      languageofstone.com

puremusic home