First Look: Beirut’s “The Rip Tide” LP

 

To be released August
30 on Zach Condon’s own Pompeii
label, The Rip Tide is the sound of an artist marching to a different drummer’s
thump. Check the link to a stream of the album, below.

 

By Fred Mills

 

The musical polyglot known as Beirut – Zach Condon to his
friends and parents – early on incorporated Gypsy and Balkan music into a
folk-rock context (2006’s Gulag Orkestar),
while 2007’s The Flying Club Cup and
2009’s March of the Zapotec/Holland saw
everything from Prog, Francophile pop, electronica and traditional Mexican
music finding their way into the mix. (Beirut was BLURT’s Artist of the Year in 2009, incidentally.) The
Rip Tide
skillfully strikes an eclectic balance, showcasing south-of-the-border
sounds alongside orchestral rock, European-flavored folk and classic torch
songs.

 

 

Listen to The Rip Tide
streaming in its entirety at NPR Music.

 

 

Singing of, variously, friendship and community, wanderlust
and loneliness (one tune, “Santa Fe,” is an aural love letter to Condon’s old
hometown; currently, he calls Brooklyn home), and in a rich, slightly trembly
voice that’s part-Jeff Buckley and part-Rufus Wainwright, Condon conducts a
musical travelogue across the nine songs of The
Rip Tide.
There’s the elegant sway of “East Harlem”
and the mournful, strings-laden majesty of the title track, not to mention the
baroque waltz of “Payne’s Bay,” whose Mariachi players subtly morph into a
Sousa-worthy band of oompah-wielders by song’s end. And the aforementioned “Santa Fe,” with its hypnotic
keyboard pulse, overlapping/interweaving vocal lines and swelling horns, is
surely one of the most unlikely yet luminous piano pop anthems of the year.

 

 

It’s been deeply satisfying watching the gradual evolution
of Beirut’s
Condon. Some of his wanderings to date have been fascinating, others merely
interesting. But with the refinements offered on The Rip Tide he’s become a sonic conceptualist par excellence.

 

Beirut performs at the
Crystal Ballroom on Portland tonight, then this weekend (Aug. 14) at the
Outside Lands Festival in San
Francisco. After that, in early September, he heads
off on a European tour, then returns to the US on Sept. 21 to start a full
North American tour. Dates here.

 

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