Mordechai Shinefield


Top 5 Middle Eastern Metal Albums of 2013

By Mordechai Shinefield

Top 5 Middle Eastern Metal Albums of 2013
At some point in the early ’90s, folk metal acts from the Middle East received the decidedly un-PC neologism, Oriental Metal. The term, implying a heady mix of thrash guitars, throaty vocals and maqam-inflected scales, fell into disuse but the relevant bands did not. In a year when the Middle East was marked with military coups, ongoing sectarian civil wars, and one of history’s largest refugee crises, metal bands stood at the vanguard — distilling chaos into chaotic music and writing some of the best albums of the year. Here are five of them:Read More


Top 7 Jewish Albums of 2013

By Mordechai Shinefield

Top 7 Jewish Albums of 2013
Following up his 2007 ode to Paul Celan, Dan Kaufman writes a gothic masterpiece inspired by the ancient Roman Jewish community and the Italian Resistance to the Nazi occupation of Italy. Tracks like album opener “Et Shaare Ratzon” are swirling ahistorical melodies packed with aural hooks and haunting poetry about World War II.Read More


In Folk Music, Sincerity Is Not Enough

By Mordechai Shinefield

In Folk Music, Sincerity Is Not Enough
“Thoughtless Sounds,” Max Jared’s debut Shemspeed release and the first on Shemspeed’s new folk imprint, Soul Snack Records, follows the blueprint for sentimental adult contemporary rock laid out by Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson: light accessible vocals, sensitive acoustic strumming and unobtrusive tunes. Like those other artists, Jared’s lyrical pallet assumes a sacred hippie slacker pace, empathetic about others but still so sleepy. “It’s cold outside but I’m warm in my bed / others are hopefully living okay,” he sings on “Roots,” a track emblematic of disengaged concern. Maybe look outside and find out? Later on the song he muses that “Our generation will soon be the world / So what kind of change comes with it?”Read More


Reggae's Jewish Connection

By Mordechai Shinefield

Reggae's Jewish Connection
In 1997, writer, producer and performer Michael Goldwasser founded reggae collective Easy Star All-Stars, and has since then released half a dozen albums with names like “Dub Side of the Moon,” “Radiodread,” and “Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band.” Their latest album, a reggae-homage to Michael Jackson, “Thrillah,” slows down singles like “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” to a dubby reverb. Goldwasser, whose father was a rabbi for a Reform congregation, talked to The Arty Semite about the affinity between Judaism and Rastafarian cultures and why Israel is the next big reggae scene.Read More


How Anti-Semitic Comics Got Replaced

By Mordechai Shinefield

How Anti-Semitic Comics Got Replaced
In the epigraph to his second volume of “Maus,” the seminal graphic novel about the Shoah, Art Spiegelman quotes an anti-Semitic text: “Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed… Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.”Read More



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