Under Review: Beirut – The Rip Tide

Zach Condon always made his love for international sounds very well known. As the frontman for Beirut, Condon explores the sounds of Eastern Europe, Central America and the American Southwest. After two albums of striking world-influenced sounds, Beirut’s latest turn firmly establishes their own style. The Rip Tide is confident without being showy, eschewing previous albums’ transliterations of foreign techniques and forging a respectable standalone sound for Condon and his band. The parts that have comprised Beirut’s albums over the years are still here; plinking ukuleles, wheezing pump organs and a bright brass section led by Condon himself. How those parts are used on The Rip Tide, though, is unlike anything Beirut has done before. Gone are the oom-pah dirges like “The Shrew” and the casbah allure of “Gulag Orkestar.” Instead, The Rip Tide’s songs cater to those who don’t get abroad to often, offering relatable snapshots that flow gently and smoothly.

The Rip Tide is a disarmingly brief album, though each of the nine songs is given plenty of room to blossom. Condon’s romantic songwriting is put on full display on songs like “East Harlem,” a swooning tale of longing over a seemingly insurmountable distance. The second half of Beirut’s last release, the March Of The Zapotec/Holland double EP, was notable in its use of warm electronics. Those synthesizers emerge once on The Rip Tide, providing a jaunty backbeat to “Santa Fe,” Condon’s ode to his hometown. The Rip Tide’s sparse ballads, namely “Goshen” and “The Peacock,” make Condon’s lyrics stand out even more.

At first listen, The Rip Tide’s upbeat songs don’t exactly hit that hard, but as a whole, the album is quite masterful. There’s a subtlety in the playful “Vagabond” and the superb closer, “Port Of Call,” that reminds the listener of why Condon can essentially abandon the style that he was so strongly connected to. Condon is an exceptionally creative artist, and his decision to craft an album that’s more a reflection of himself than of the ‘old country’ is a bold one. Luckily, he’s smart enough (not to mention sly enough) to wrap this shift in a blanket of timeless music.

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~ by E. on August 17, 2011.

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