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First Listen: Asaf Avidan, 'Gold Shadow'

Asaf Avidan's new album<em>,</em> <em>Gold Shadow</em>, comes out Feb. 3.
Courtesy of the artist
Asaf Avidan's new album, Gold Shadow, comes out Feb. 3.

It's easy to listen to Asaf Avidan and not know if you're listening to a female singer from long ago or a guy singing 21st-century pop songs. Avidan is a bestselling 34-year-old singer from Israel who is little known in the U.S. This record, Gold Shadow, is likely to change that. On his first official release in North America, Avidan has written a batch of killer songs that make use of one of the most compelling and unusual voices I've ever heard. Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan are all in there, but they add up to a wholly original sound, with songs that are beautifully written and fervently performed.

I love you like the roots in the sand

I love you like God likes his plan

I love you like death loves a man

I love you like a gun in my hand

Bang bang bang I'm back again

"Bang Bang" conveys a perfect mix of passion and poetry, as Avidan does a remarkable job writing for his own voice. Gold Shadow spends much of its time cycling through modern rock and blues sounds, but near the end of the record, "The Labyrinth Song" finds them fading like a sunset. There, with just his gorgeous voice and an acoustic guitar, Avidan stares down his demons without affect or artifice. In the process, he makes a true connection between head and heart that leaps directly from speakers to soul.

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Bob Boilen
In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.