By Huntress Thompson | Images by Tania Olssen
On 1 November, SAMA winner Yoav launched his third album, Blood Vine, at the World of Yamaha in Johannesburg.
The Israeli-born singer-songwriter has enjoyed some years of both local and international success since his 2008 album Charmed & Strange, and the 2010 follow-up A Foolproof Escape Plan.
My concern with Yoav has always been that his music is, in my opinion, fairly thin on substance. The songs are usually pretty but empty, and the lyrics regularly fall short of communicating anything powerful or poetic. I have struggled to relate to or be moved by his work as a result.
My opinion in this situation (and most other situations) is fairly meaningless, since Yoav is perhaps one of the most feverishly well-supported musicians in South Africa. Crowds of loyal fans swarm the stage at his every gig, and he is considered by many to be a deeply charismatic, divinely gifted musician. Cynicism leads me to believe that a lot of this is a case of Emperor’s New Clothes, but my personal indifference is sort of lost in the tides of awe-struck supporters of Yoav and his music in the South African industry.
I am pleased to report that his third release, Blood Vine (which I assume just means ‘vein’?), plays to his strongest suit – electronica. From what we heard at the album launch, it appears that the focus is firmly on lite trip hop melodies and indie pop, and both are areas where Yoav shines.
Although not featured on the upcoming album, Yoav’s award-winning, soundtrack-invading cover of the Pixies alternative opus Where Is My Mind? made a welcome appearance on his set on the night. I’ve long considered the song his finest recorded moment to date. It’s a wonderfully minimalist interpretation sung with due reverence to the original, and it serves as a mark of what Yoav is capable of as an artist. With the right words in his arsenal, and a suitably strong idea to sing about, he is an artist who is capable of creating musical atmospheres and moving listeners profoundly. He’s toured as the opening act for Tori Amos, and had fair international recognition, but once those poignant words and ideas are ones written by Yoav himself, I believe he’ll have become one of South Africa’s truly seminal artists, rather than one who sometimes alludes to that potential.
Prior to this launch, the last Yoav gig I attended (they tend to be fairly well-spaced due to his international travels) was last August at Tanz Café, Johannesburg. At that performance, I also found the opening act to be an uncommonly striking artist, who hinted at wells of talent and material for fans to discover long after the gig. Like Joshua Grierson that night, Nakhane Touré proved a revelation at the Blood Vine album launch this year. Fresh-faced, sincere and apparently shell-shocked by the attention of the crowd, Nakhane opened the evening with a remarkable selection of songs, singular in theme and tone.
Steadily rising on the collective radar of Johannesburg’s music fans in 2012, Nakhane Touré has been industriously writing, gigging and competing all year for a hotly contested space in the local industry. His tireless efforts are being handsomely rewarded, with the then unsigned singer-songwriter earning a spot on the Oppikoppi Festival stage this August, and joining Just Music’s exclusive artist registry in October.
This November, Nakhane’s indie folk, soul songs about heartache, restlessness and hope are among the most promising and exciting to be heard from a new artist – easily the most exhilarating sounds to emerge from South Africa all year. Keep your eyes squarely on Nakhane Touré. I predict it won’t be long before you won’t have a choice.
Yoav’s Blood Vine is currently available in South African music outlets, and will be released internationally shortly. Rumour has it Nakhane Touré’s debut album will be out in 2013.
In the vacuum between dark and light, Siouxsie Sioux and Emmylou Harris, Amelie and Travis Bickle, Huntress Thompson is an idiot lost, and reporting from the field. If you’re after irrational rants about cupcakes and Johnny Cash (and you probably aren’t), she’s grumpy, but she’s your girl.