Whenever I think back on the Fall of 2009, I hear the soundtrack of Oren Lavie’s album, The Opposite Side of the Sea playing the background. This is likely because it was the music I listened to most at the time; the 10 track disc was often on repeat on my laptop. The songs weave in seamlessly with my memories- the highs, the lows, the stressful nights, the happy afternoons spent in the hammock in my backyard. His melodies remind me of someone I realized I loved only that fall; they help me recall the bittersweet realization that I could never truly love that person, which came later. The Fall wasn’t the best time of my life, nor was it the worst, but Lavie’s album is, by far, one of the best “life soundtracks” I can ever say I’ve had.
I’m not exactly sure when I fell in love with the Israeli singer/songwriter, though I know a friend of mine first introduced his lead single, “Her Morning Elegance” to me via Facebook. I was impressed with the song, and not too long after, downloaded Lavie’s only album, The Opposite Side of the Sea, which was released in 2007.
I’m pretty sure that the first few times I listened to the album, it provided nothing more than background music. As a whole, the disc is quiet, shy, understated; it’s not the kind of music you’ll put on during a party, and most of the songs aren’t ones you’ll likely have stuck in your head after one or two listens. Yet, there was something there, something hypnotic about Lavie’s silky voice, something incredibly truthful and poignant in his lyrics, something amazingly beautiful in the melodies he had written.
“Her Morning Elegance” is easily the most radio-friendly song on the album, which is why it was the perfect choice for the first single. The tune is upbeat, and pop-sounding, and the track gives off an happy, carefree feeling- perfect music for listening to first thing in the morning while having a cup of coffee before the day starts. The music video (which you must definitely look up on YouTube, but only after you’ve finished reading this review!) garnered Lavie some attention, with its interesting stop-motion style.
One of the things I loved about the album is the use of several live instruments, including a beautiful string section. This is highlighted brilliantly in the title track, “The Opposite Side of the Sea.” The song starts right off with frenetic strings, and you can almost hear the movement in the music. The melody outshines any of the lyrics; it’s simply a beautifully produced and orchestrated track, which makes me wish I was seaside every time I listen to it.
“Locked in a Room” features a string quartet again, though this time, the music is more subtle and gives way to the lyrics. 34-year-old Lavie is responsible for writing his own lyrics, and he should be proud of these ones; the contradictory lyrics are some of my favorite on the album (“Locked in a room that is nothing but walls/And you search for a chair/But there’s nothing at all/And the one thing you find when you look at the floor/Is a key, but there isn’t a door “), mostly because they seem very symbolic of how life can be in general. It seems that again and again I have come to a place in life where I can wholeheartedly relate to the line, “To find your way out, you find your way in.”
The album is all composed of slow-paced ballads, but it’s honestly not a problem, when the songs are as good as “A Short Goodbye” is. I can only describe this track as being hauntingly beautiful; Lavie’s voice is barely a whisper, and the melancholy tune is sad, but in a gorgeous sort of way. Lavie’s music has a way of transporting the listener to another place upon listening, and this song always makes me feel like I’m watching the sun set over a beautiful, stretched-out horizon.
My favorite song on the album is a bittersweet tale of unrequited love, titled “Don’t Let Your Hair Grow Too Long.” Lavie compares the subject of the song to a picture, asking her not to change as he admires and loves her from afar (“Don’t let your hair grow too long/Leave your yellow raincoat on/Don’t get wet/But don’t get warm/Don’t change the time on your watch/Always reach, but never touch/Stay a picture on the wall”.) The sentiment is heartbreaking beautiful, and very human; the desire to love something or someone that you can’t touch is one that nearly everyone can relate to at some point in his or her life. The imagery in the song captivates me every time I listen to this track, which, for the record, has been over 160 times, according to iTunes.
Blue Smile continues the bittersweet romance, as Lavie sings “Goodbye/Blue sky/You made me happy for a while/And how you gave me/Your blue smile.” The song, again, has a way of transporting me to another place every time I hear it; the quiet melody and simple lyrics would fit in perfectly with a quiet evening in front of a crackling hearth. What I’m really trying to say here is that this album just makes me want to buy a home on either the Maine or Oregon coast, where I can read books all day and write on a balcony that faces the ocean. While listening to Oren Lavie, of course.
The disc ends with a “hidden track”, called “A Quarter Past Wonderful.” The song is the only other since the album’s opener that’s at all upbeat or peppy, but it’s a pleasant end to the album all the same. I always find myself singing along with the lyrics in the chorus (“Don’t know how/But that /Something extra delicious/Something sweet but nutritious/Something good/But I guess that we blew it/I mean I guess that we knew it/I mean I guess that we did “), and the rest of the lyrics, about the demise of a relationship, play along quite satirically with the cheerful melody.
I’m not sure if there are enough words I can use to express how much I love The Opposite Side of the Sea. The album is completely solid- there are no songs I don’t like, no tracks I ever skip. One of the brilliant things about the disc is its length; the ten tracks are perfect for listening to the album all the way through without feeling bogged down. All of the music flows together seamlessly and paints a beautiful portrait; perfect music for just sitting and listening to, or great background music for when you’re deep in thought and just want to relax. Oren Lavie is incredibly talented, and his music and lyrics have left an imprint on my life and mind for what I suspect will be many years to come.
1. Her Morning Elegance
2. The Man Who Isn’t There
3. The Opposite Side of the Sea
4. Locked in a Room
5. Ruby Rises
6. A Dream Within A Dream
7. Trouble Don’t Rhyme
8. A Short Goodbye
9. Don’t Let Your Hair Grow Too Long
10. Blue Smile
11. Unhidden Track: A Quarter Past Wonderful