The world seems to be passing Beirut by. When Zach Condon first came onto the scene as a fresh-faced and precocious nineteen year old with his band’s debut, Gulag Orkestar, the indie rock scene favored his panache for international music. Now, six years later, indie has moved to pop-synth and a throwback folk sound – but Beirut continues to plug away. And they are better off for it.
Instead of following their peers into a landscape littered with reedy vocals and electronic effects, Beirut’s sound stays true with their third album, The Rip Tide. There are enough accordions, ukuleles, pianos and brass horns to give the vibe of a Parisian street fair. Known for his interest in the worldly sound, Condon keeps a score that is not traditional by 2011 indie rock standards, but that keeps the sound fresh; his crooning vocals add a textured layer to the big band sound made small.
There is a grand vision for the music, but the pace is kept tempered. Every song sounds like a Sunday afternoon brunch. There is a relaxed pace which spreads over your consciousness that has already had me shift this album into the “If one more person cuts me off in traffic, this is not going to end well” library, a library designed to shift away from that mindset. This is only compounded by Condon’s vocals; the man could sing “Poker Face” and it would sound like a lullaby.
From the moment the accordions open the album on “A Candle’s Fire,” the listener is treated to a cavalcade of instruments invented before families came in droves to Ellis Island on their steam-powered ships. The only electronic beats come in the subsequent track, “Santa Fe,” which seems to be a nod to the changing theme in independent rock writing. The melodious transition flows through all nine tracks until a ukulele closes out the album on “Port of Call.”
As summer winds down, The Rip Tide calls listeners to relax and enjoy the change of seasons. The scope of the album does not waver at all during its 34 minutes; Condon has a vision for his work that has not changed and does not appear to in the near future. In his eyes, everything old is new again, and it is a fun, albeit subdued ride as he refines his sound.
The Rip Tide comes out August 30th, listen to see where Beirut takes you and wonder where they will go next.
Beirut – East Harlem by Revolver USA