Nehedar is the project of singer-songwriter Emilia Cataldo performing in the NYC area since 2001.
The daughter of two New York musicians who fled urban life for the country, Cataldo was born in Southbridge, Massachusetts, where her family lived in a barn on the outskirts of town. Music always permeated their home – her mother a hippie piano teacher from a Jewish home & her father a Puerto Rican jazz saxophonist.
The Cataldo family which grew to six children, moved from Massachusetts, to Miami FL, & eventually to the religiously-infused town of Zion, Illinois, on the outskirts of Chicago where Cataldo briefly attended high school.
Cataldo quickly grew disenchanted with her small town surroundings. As soon as she was old enough, she left high school to travel the country, and later the world, on a journey that would eventually lead her to Israel, where she would study the Jewish faith in Seminary, and take on the Hebrew name Nehedar, which means ‘wonderful.’
While spanning indie-rock, folk, jazz and pop genres, the music of Nehedar has continued to deliver her blend of deeply personal yet quirky lyrics, beautiful vocal harmonies and a variety of instrumentation that sets her music apart.
Her new album, which was released this month is entitled “High Tide”. Nehedar delivers an album that seems designed for comfort and easy listening. Featuring slow, medium and up tempo songs which are frisky and very beguiling.
There’s something hypnotic about quirky female singer songwriters. Quite possibly it’s the wryness of outlook that comes from combining intelligence and emotion with maturity. Three qualities that are to be found in abundance in Nehedar’s latest offering.
There’s a certain surefootedness to the album. Every step taken – even when on tricky ground – takes the songs forward and much of what keeps these songs on the ground is the sumptuous and sophisticated production, which takes turns at presenting retro synth sounds as well as modern pop mixes.
On the first half of the album, the sounds are all extremely reminiscent of the Eighties. Strings, synthesizers, pianos, moogs and drum machines abound all across the songs, while Nehedar pitches her ethereal sounding voice amidst these lusciuos retro arrangements with absolute ease. Providing much of the enjoyment gained from this album.
On “The Interrogation”, for example, the vocoder interludes give the feeling of a distint urban tale countering Nehedar’s country prom styled vocal. While on “High Tide” a moogish bassline riff delivers a similarly startling effect. Providing a spunky background for Emilia Cataldo to sing her catchy chorus lines over.
On “Distracted” and “Tinkerbell” you clearly get the impression that words flow effortlessly from songwriter’s pen and her voice is weathered with sufficient apathy to ensure that each one of these words rings true.
“Take It Apart” has definite jazz and latino influences. Rhythmic beats and stabbing horns keep this track stomping throughout, while Ms Cataldo’s surefire, rollercoaster vocal-phrasing, makes it all sound so easy. Simple and effective, as is “The Song No One Hears” a tongue-in-cheek pop melody with a definite Morcheeba sounding arrangement creeping around the edges.
It appears that up until this point of the album, no deliberate attempts have been made to really impress the listener, but rather a more concerted and successful attempt to charm and enchant instead.
It is on “Intro”, that the production takes an impressive drastic left turn. The sound instantly becomes more austere, dark and determined.
“Dig Deep (Parts 1&2)” seriously confirms this impression. Accompanied by a simple tambourine beat, Nehedar offers a stunningly haunting vocal performance. Quite honestly, this is the Nehedar that I personally find more appealling.
Moving ahead things only get better. “Unlove Song” is my absolute favourite track on the entire album, and is definitely suited to, and ready for radio play. Beautifully sung with a bittersweet lyric to match and wrapped up into a tight modern arrangement.
“Baby I’m Falling” doesn’t fall much far behind the top mark either. If like me, you’re just a sucker for a good melody, a straight guitar riff rhythm and an honest-to-goodness Sheryl Crow type vocal, you’ll love this one too.
“Ocean” and “Opening” further demonstrate how much more impressively Nehedar sounds over a guitar driven background as opposed to a synth arrangement. Above a six-string strum, Emilia’s already endearing vocal timbre sounds significantly more determined and grittier.
Track 14 presents the final song of the album, and yet another sharp turn in production.
“Count Down The Days” is a big booming brass arrangement which could so easily have come off a broadway musical by Lionel Bart. If nothing else Nehedar flaunts her fiery versatality, with another showstopping performance.
The album “High Tide” seems deliberately split down the middle, between the Eighties sounding tracks and the Modern-pop sounding ones. Both are convincingly done and Emilia Cataldo’s voice lends itself to either genre equally well, and with absolute ease.
I however, particurlay like the “modern pop sounding genre” which sets in from track 8 onwards.
It presents a craftier, more reflective and impassioned sounding Nehedar.
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