REVIEW: Beirut - "The Rip Tide"

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Beirut - The Rip Tide
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Record Label: Pompeii

Your Beirut travel list:
1. the Balkans
2. 1920s France
3. Mexico
4. Zach Condon's bedroom
5. A laboratory?

Let's face it, one of the reasons that Zach Condon and Beirut have been so well-received, made so many fans, and emerged as one of the most original voices in indie music is their love affair with the exotic coupled with a huge dose of wanderlust. What else is a kid from New Mexico doing out among the bums of Europe, drinking wine, learning instruments, and living more than the rest of us? It's the stuff of legend, really, and one that has sprouted along Condon's feet while he's engineered some of the most beautiful music that we've heard recently.

And, musically, The Rip Tide is no exception. The melodies and instrumentation are precious and even, at times, understated. The titular track emerges from your speakers like a layered dream. The first taste of the album "East Harlem" is a Beirut slow-jam, a downtempo ballad that finds a melodic niche and sticks to it. "Santa Fe" is exactly what Condon was missing from his dual EP Zapotec/Holland, a jaunty mixture of electronics and horns -- just like your wedding day, a fusion of the old and the new.

But, there's a legend to live up to, and unlike previous Beirut albums, this one can't be located. It contributes to the knee jerk reaction to the album that it's too hermetic, too studio, too un-Beirut. Though the instrumentation stays the same, this album seems a continent apart from the raucous debauched Dionysian fest of Gulag Orkestar. Because, that's just it, it is. And if you're expecting something larger, more flamboyant, you're going to be disappointed.

The Rip Tide feels (with the exception of Holland) like Condon's most engineered project to date. And if you're on the fence about this album, this is probably why: it feels too at home in its own skin. But, is this a reason to dismiss it? I think not. First, the music is just glorious soak in the melody of "Port of Call" and the croon of "Vagabond" if you think otherwise. Second, like the other Beirut albums, it sounds nothing like anything else out there and yet familiar enough to get into it. I mean, have you heard traditional Balkan music? It's difficult to palate for a while, trust me. Beirut's success is based on its ability to hybridize music. He's been in a laboratory the whole time, we just haven't heard it as clearly as we do on this record.

1 comment:

  1. First off, bonus points for creating the travel list.
    Secondly, I think the reason I love this album so much is the fact that it combines all of his previous sounds into something palatable to new listeners. It's the same Beirut but he was able to blend his different styles and sounds so well together. And the title track is something of a miracle. Definitely agree it's a standout.