By Marcus Brooks
Welcome to the first installment of Add To Queue, a series where I do a deep dive into the most interesting artists on the rise you have not heard of.
Today’s artist is Noga Erez, an Israeli singer, songwriter and producer. Her sound is an eclectic mix of dance/electronic with frequent use of live instruments and influences from hip hop, rock and alternative.
In 2017, Erez released her debut album, Off The Radar, to unanimous critical acclaim from the few major reviews it received as well as a 75 score from users of the review website Album Of The Year. Although it’s much more grounded in EDM than its follow-up (which may turn some people off), it is a breathtaking piece of art that combines masterfully clear electronic production with urgent sociopolitical statements.
This is definitely an album that takes a couple listens to get the full experience; the lyrics are largely sparse, abstract, poetic statements and it’s easy to occasionally lose them in the grandeur of the production, but Erez is saying things that need to be heard. “Dance While You Shoot,” a single from the album that was featured in an Apple ad, is about how people (governments) can dance and have fun oblivious to how their privileged lives negatively affect others (Erez has lived in Israel her whole life. You can fill in the blanks.) This album may not be for everyone, but I would absolutely recommend giving it a listen.
Erez followed her debut with an even sharper second effort, KIDS, on March 26th. On her first album, the vocals were often very spacey and atmospheric, but with this album she is far more present, rapping and singing her way through with increased lyrical content.
Her co-producer/life partner, Ori Rousso, also takes the mic a few times, adding a new flavor to KIDS her debut lacked. This album feels a lot brighter than her debut but maintains the level of social commentary. The political and social unrest in Israel is touched on in “KIDS” and “Fire Kites,” but with far more biting specificity than on her debut album. The hook on “VIEWS” (“People buy views, I know it’s old news but also bad news for everybody”) laments a social media numbers obsessed society.
“NO news on TV” is a COVID-era alt-rock anthem that asks if we would really be able to handle a world without news and constant stimulus with how technology conditions us our whole lives. Erez cites giants like Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead, Gorillaz, Missy Elliot, and Lauryn Hill as main influences for this album, and all those influences shine through in this expertly crafted pop/hip-hop melting pot.
It’s clear that Erez has mastered her sound in the studio, but her music videos are equally as compelling. Making videos that hold the weight of heavy subject material is no easy feat, but Erez achieves this with expert use of locations, symbolism, and the occasional venture into abstract fantasy. A standout is the video for her song “YOU SO DONE,” an ode to a past toxic relationship, where she is thrashed around by a crane-like machine and gets gradually beaten down until she’s left lying on the ground motionless. Other must-watch videos are “NO News on TV,” “Story” and “Dance While You Shoot.”
Erez is also very comfortable in the live setting; she has multiple Tiny Desk Concert-style videos of songs from her latest album where she’s surrounded by background vocalists and live instruments ranging from guitars and drums to trombones and trumpets. She followed the recent trend of live stream concerts and put on a full-out production fit with lights, live musicians and an ensemble of close to 30 dancers in support of KIDS in April. Erez creates a captivating live experience that is sure to gain her new fans as live music starts making its way back.
Following her debut album, Erez went on a festival run that included SXSW and Primavera Sound as well as a short European tour supporting Sylvan Esso, but she’s clearly been making a concerted effort to break into the U.S. market this time around.
Since the release of KIDS in March, Erez has performed on Jimmy Kimmel and Kelly Clarkson’s late-night shows (taking full advantage of the pandemic making performances remote), and has locked in spots at returning festivals Shaky Knees, Lollapalooza, and our very own Austin City Limits.
She’s also received co-signs from industry-heavy hitters like Grammy-winner for Producer of the Year FINNEAS (as well as sister Billie Eilish and Meghan Trainor), who posted an Instagram story calling KIDS “One of the best albums I’ve ever heard.” After coming across that story and listening to Erez myself, I must say I wholeheartedly agree.
Check out Noga Erez at upcoming festivals and stream Off The Radar and KIDS on all music platforms.