Zach Condon has really done it this time. While I’ve often heard that phrase directed at me for all the wrong reasons, with Beirut, it can only be a good thing. The new album The Rip Tide is an album that eschews a whole lot of conventions. It has nine songs and clocks in at just over half an hour (an EP to a lot of artists); his genre-defying is unabated; and his song writing is unerringly good.
The album is introduced by an accordion playing a charming minor melody before the band come in with a slow burner of a song. His vocals, which have always sounded a little fragile, have not lost any of the charm of his previous two efforts. It may have been four years since The Flying Club Cup but his voice doesn’t seem to have changed at all. In contrast to his sophomore effort though the writing seems to have matured a little. ‘Santa Fe’ recalls ‘Scenic World’ from Gulag Orkestar, yet it feels grown up. This could be due to the way that he draws not only from his traditional repertoire of eastern European melodies but joins it with his own form of synth pop to create a song that is more complete.
The album pushes on, piling layers of gently soaring brass on top of simple piano melodies to create something quite wonderful. ‘Goshen’ is a lesson in melodrama and vocal arrangement; it is a simple piece that spends all 3 minutes and 20 seconds building towards a crescendo that never quite arrives, keeping the listener committed to the end.
Condon experiments more with restraint in this album compared to his previous offerings. While the songs retain a certain amount of his old bombast, it is toned down, which makes it all the more effective when he chooses to use it. If there is one criticism that can be leveled at the album it is that it’s not long enough. But that’s exactly how he wants you to feel, so you can’t really hold it against him.
File next to: DeVotchka, Sufjan Stevens, Little Joy, Devendra Banhart.