So maybe you checked out my last article, and maybe you got into ‘60s and ‘70s Israeli rock. But guess what? Israeli rock has only expanded and gotten more interesting in the past 50 years. And you’re ready for it. You’re not a beginner anymore.
The first time I heard Alon Eder, I was walking around USC’s campus listening to Arik Einstein (as I always am). Spotify’s algorithm (God bless her) tossed me his song “אישה שלי” which loosely translates to “My Woman.” My mind was blown. Here was Israeli rock, but not your grandparents’ or even your parents’ rock — this was fresh and new, and I was excited about it. I spent about a month looping that track before eventually caving and listening to the rest of his discography.
As silly as this may sound in retrospect, it had never occurred to me that modern Israeli alternative rock existed. Despite being a dual-citizen and having friends and family that lived in Israel, it was hard to imagine that there was a cool hipster alternative music scene there. Why hadn’t anyone told me?
Then, on Birthright, I found myself taking to a certified Tel Aviv cool girl (™) on the bus. Tamari knew a hell of a lot more than what I could parse out from Israeli indie playlists on Spotify; she showed me Jane Bordeaux and we bonded over our love of live shows and alternative rock. Thanks to that one long-ass drive to the desert fortress Masada, we remain friends to this day.
I stayed in Tel Aviv that summer on an internship program, where I met my dear friend and Israeli frontwoman Yael Copeland. Yael was my program’s counselor by day and an insanely talented musician by night. That summer, she showed me the alternative side of Tel Aviv. She introduced me to the indie outfit “Bones Garage” in a sweaty venue where her boyfriend ran sound. She hosted a show in her apartment as a part of living room sessions around the hipster-approved neighborhood of Florentine. We spent bus rides (I swear half of Israel programs is hearing people’s life stories on tour buses) talking about how Yael had just recorded a demo for a new band she was thinking of calling “Borito.” “It’s like burrito but spelled wrong but on purpose,” she explained. Today, Yael and her bandmates are playing Indegev, also lovingly referred to as “Indie Negev” — one of Israel’s flagship music festivals. And I am left wondering: When are they going to play in North America?
Israeli musicians have historically been able to rise to prominence in international markets in a number of genres. In the context of electronic music, especially trance, Israeli artists such as Vini Vici, Infected Mushroom, Skazi and Riot have garnered fans around the world and tour globally. I personally feel butterflies in my stomach any time I see those names announced on a lineup.
But American audiences still might not know much about the rock and pop musicians coming out of Israel today. So in this guide, I’ve included five of the finest modern Israeli acts. If you are interested in hearing more, you can find many additional artists on this playlist:
A few weeks ago, a Songkick notification popped up on my phone, telling me Noga Erez would be playing at Outside Lands, a music festival in San Francisco. As I unlocked my phone to investigate further, it became clear that Noga Erez was playing at music festivals with enormous crowds all over the world. Outside Lands draws 200,000 people in a weekend, Austin City Limits hosts 450,000 people over both weekends, and Primavera (a renowned festival in Barcelona) brings in 500,000 in the course of two weekends, and an Israeli alternative artist will be playing in front of those crowds. I can’t articulate why this information fills me with pride. Is it because as an Israeli woman, I am excited to see female and Israeli representation on the stage? Is it because as a Californian, Outside Lands isn’t just any stage? Or is it because I feel validated in my own argument that there is indisputably some great indie and alternative music coming out of Israel? Noga Erez seems to be pioneering and paving the way for other artists that might have a limited fan base in Israel, but appeal to many more people internationally.
Noga Erez has a sound that is unexpected, bold and utterly her own. Her song “Dance While You Shoot” was used by Apple for a commercial in 2017 and immediately set the tone that she would not shy away from difficult conversations about politics and hardships in her music. Through a swirl of electro-pop fun, we are given thoughtful and funny lyrics that pack a punch.
Without sounding like too much of a fangirl, I would argue that Alon Eder is one of the Israeli alternative rockers that changed the genre for me. Most of his discography is in Hebrew, which in no way means that the emotion of his lyrics doesn’t translate for English speakers. It is worth noting that Eder comes from a lineage of famous Israelis: His mother is beloved actress Miki Kam (which he addresses in the music video for “Song for Mom”). His father cofounded Israeli rock band “Tamuz” and was formerly the artistic director of Israeli record label Hed Artzi.
Jane Bordeaux makes “American folk-country style music in Hebrew” — so for you folkier indie kids, this is your group. Since their founding in 2012, the group has had some truly incredible collaborations. They have recently been experimenting with a new sound, as shown in their latest release, “Difficult Woman.”
Tomer Yeshayahu’s music makes me feel like I’m being embraced. His heart-wrenching ballads are simply lovely. Yeshayahu has released tracks with some iconic Israeli artists, including my mom’s favorite star, David Broza. I cannot recommend Yeshayahu’s music enough — take yourself on a mellow drive or put this on as you’re making your morning coffee. You won’t regret it.
For any indie pop stars, this duo is for you. Comprised of Gil Landau and Yael Shoshana Cohen, the group sings mostly in English, albeit with a twinge of an Israeli accent that I find absolutely charming. Cohen’s vocals are reminiscent of Lana Del Rey, and the upbeat arrangements have awarded them a substantial amount of exposure already. After releasing their first EP with Universal Records, they have only gotten bigger and bigger, landing placements in commercials with eBay and the California Lottery. Their dreamy harmonies do not disappoint.