First Impressions: The Alchemist by NOGA

Four songs just isn’t enough. That was my initial thought after listening to The Alchemist by NOGA (aka Noga Shefi), an EP due out July 30th that was inspired by Paulo Coelho’s classic novel of the same name. It’s also what I think now, after more than a month with it. It sounds to my ears like a lost treasure from the Paisley Underground or the late ‘60s, akin to David Roback’s pre-Mazzy Star band Opal, but with Juliana Hatfield in lieu of Kendra Smith, or the Velvet Underground circa their self-titled, laid-back third album, but with Mary Lou Lord upfront instead of Lou Reed. Which is to say, it’s an utterly addictive set – I’ve played it back to back to back more often than not. It’s like listening in on a dream.

For those not up on their mystical literature, which includes me, the GoodReads entry describes The Alchemist as the story of “an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried near the Pyramids…[b]ut what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within.” I share that just so I can say: Maybe you’ll get more out of these songs if you’ve read the book, but they’ll take you (good) places even if you haven’t.

The title track opens the EP with NOGA rediscovering what she already knew:   

The second song, “Any Kind of Dream,” focuses on letting go – of things, thoughts and, yes, even dreams – and replacing the old with something new. “Any kind of dream/any color scheme /fill it to the brim/with a love supreme.”

“Special Friend” bypasses stranger danger in favor of those magical moments when you instantly connect with someone new. The final tune, “Tides,” is akin to a high tide inundating all in its path. “How much longer will I go on/letting my energy sleep/how much longer am I gonna stay oblivious to thee?” A guitar glistens overhead and drums accent the inland march, and then the song slips away as quickly as it arrived. It’s a hypnotic way to end what is a tremendous, albeit too-short set. Some may argue that her vocals are a bit buried in the mix, but for me that adds to the EP’s charm – it is indeed, as I said up top, like listening in on a dream.

According to the press release, Shefi wrote the songs while in Israel and recorded them at the Relic Room in New York City. She handles bass and guitar, as does Scott Colberg, while Frank LoCrasto plays piano, keys and synths, and Jason Nazary works the drums.

The track list:

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