Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
The Schmooze

Top 7 Jewish Albums of 2013

“Bella Ciao”
By Barbez

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.

“Pillar Without Mercy”
By Deveykus

My album of the year matches hasidic niggunim with the slow burn of doom metal. The familiar chants aren’t malleable; even slowed down into trudging dirges they maintain their sweeping ecstasy propelled into divine transcendence. Originally hasidic songs borrowed tunes from Polish bar songs and the French national anthem — in 2013 it is up to the task of transforming doom metal from something foreboding into something holy.

“One Bead”
By The Epichorus

JTS semicha candidate Zach Fredman and Sudanese singer Alsarah make gorgeous music together on their debut, “One Bead.” The way Jewish devotional hymns and North African chants mix together is testament to the power and elegance of the two lead singers, whose voices intertwine around Hebrew and English lyrics in peaceful meditation.

“Life Happens EP”
By Ester Rada

Ethiopian emigrant Ester Rada shocked the Negev last October with a blistering soul set at the InDnegev 2012 festival. This follow-up EP is short but full of promise. Rada’s voice is a gorgeous instrument, ducking and weaving around Ethio-jazz beats that recall Mulatu Astatke rhythms and contemporary R&B. She’s a geography-bending phenomenon. While waiting for a true full-length, also check out the single “No More,” full of trumpeting and groove.

“Grazia” (Reissue)
By Grazia

In the early ’70s Grazia Peretz’s father set her up to record at the Koliphone studios in Jaffa for her 16th birthday. This unique cultural artifact got a reissue this year from Light in the Attic records and it sounds as fresh and exotic as it did upon its initial release. Grazia combines psychedelic Turkish guitars with Greek melodies, Hebrew sounds and Arabic folk all processed through a synthesized Moog. It’s a timeshifted dance record from the past that wouldn’t sound out of place on rotation with the new Omar Souleyman in a contemporary nightclub.

“Modern Vampires of the City”
By Vampire Weekend

The afropop indie darlings turn to questions of God in their third album, and release a stunner. Though not explicitly a Jewish album, lyricist Ezra Koenig works his own identity into the fabric of “Modern Vampires of the City.” On “Finger Back” he tells the story of an “Orthodox girl who fell in love with the guy at the falafel shop,” asking, “Why not? Should she have averted her eyes and just started at the laminated poster of the Dome of the Rock?” On “Ya Hey,” he goes biblical, intoning in the chorus God’s self-description, “Through the fire and through the flame / You won’t even say your name / Only I am that I am.”

“Shir Hashirim”
By John Zorn

Does Shir HaShirim, the classic romantic text of the Tanach, lend itself to extreme vocal performances? A few years after Ayelet Rose Gottlieb’s ground-breaking “Mayim Rabim,” Tzadik releases a series of Zorn compositions for post-Meredith-Monk style vocal contortions. While not quite as lovely as Gottlieb’s opus, tracks like “I Have Come Into My Garden,” and “Where Has Your Lover Gone” nail a wistful erotic longing in a cappella style, performed by the Sapphites.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.