Quarantine soundtrack

Locked down? Open up to… rising Israeli musician Oren Lavie

The promising 43-year-old singer may not be a household name just yet — but a Grammy nomination and a YouTube video with 34 million hits indicate a star on the rise

Israeli singer Oren Lavie in 2016. (Wikimedia commons/ CC-SA-4.0/ Perfect paper poodle)
Israeli singer Oren Lavie in 2016. (Wikimedia commons/ CC-SA-4.0/ Perfect paper poodle)

The name Oren Lavie might not ring familiar, but you most likely already encountered his soft and thoughtful melodies while tuning in to your favorite indie radio stations. The promising 43-year-old singer, who was born in Tel Aviv and grew up in Israel, may not be a household name just yet — but he is definitely a star on the rise, if a Grammy Award nomination and a YouTube video with over 34 million views are any indication.

Well before Lavie excited viewers with the aforementioned stop-motion video for his song “Her Morning Elegance,” he was busy crafting work far from the limelight of the music scene. His creative path began behind the theater curtains, where he worked as a director. His first play, “Sticks and Wheels,” received many accolades when it was produced in 1998.

That same year, Lavie moved to the United Kingdom, where he obtained a degree in theater directing at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Following his studies, two of his plays — which already included songs that he had penned and composed — were staged in theaters at the British capital.

In the early 2000s, the nomadic artist up and left again. This time he headed for the Big Apple, where he lived for several years and directed workshops on his plays. During his time in New York, Lavie gradually shifted his focus to music, dedicating himself to songwriting.

In 2003 he jumped across the ocean once more and settled in Berlin to record his first solo album. Titled “The Opposite Side of the Sea,” the self-produced compilation of tender, soaring songs was released in Europe in 2007 and was made available to US listeners in 2009.

The combination of soft melodies, skilled piano-playing and introspective lyrics tinged with melancholic themes won over the hearts of fans worldwide. Despite the success he had garnered, Lavie was not quick to follow up with another album. Instead, he embarked on several tours in America and in Europe and continued to hone his craft. In 2014, he surprised his fans by publishing a philosophical children’s book, “The Bear Who Wasn’t There”; the short volume has since been translated into numerous languages.

After a decade of silence, in 2017 the jack of all trades finally dropped his second studio album. “Bedroom Crimes” revealed to listeners a matured and more humorous Lavie. Including surprises such as a duet with French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis (“Did You Really Say No”) and three sonatas, Lavie’s latest body of work emphasized his diverse skills and carefully constructed compositions.

Below is a breakdown of three of my favorite songs of Lavie’s. Sit back, turn on the speakers and enjoy.

‘Note to Self’

The last and arguably the best track on Lavie’s album “Bedroom Crimes,” this song offers its listeners a quiet yet uplifting four-minute journey. The cynical but kind lyrics read like a shopping list of self-improvement instructions. They sound like the sort of inner monologue most of us carry on but rarely dare share with others. The cyclical melody, which features Lavie’s familiar and magical keyboard strokes, is accompanied by a quivering violin that compliments the singer-songwriter’s hoarse voice. “Don’t be so late / Don’t make people wait / Don’t act like you’re so fucking great / Don’t over-prepare / And take better care of yourself,” Lavie advises in this soulful tune, a counsel we could all probably benefit from.

‘Her Morning Elegance’

No Oren Lavie playlist can be complete without the musician’s number one hit. This song, which had been the highlight of his first album, contains all the components that make up Lavie’s musical palette: His piercing, calm vocals, clever instrumental accompaniment and moving lyrics, which stress that the artist is a storyteller at heart. This musical tale offers a refreshing and enjoyable take on a mundane story of an urban woman’s struggle to survive heartbreak.

‘Locked in a Room’

Yet another gem from Lavie’s “The Opposite Side of the Sea,” this aptly named song is a perfect addition to your quarantine soundtrack. It is one of the musician’s richest melodies. This meditative tune, which begins modestly and ends in a powerful crescendo, will help you restore your calm (and perhaps shed a tear or two).

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