Although Beirut first stepped onto the musical scene five years ago, front man Zach Condon had been making music for much longer. In fact, Condon had been writing and producing music since he was a wee lad, holed up in his bedroom. So it was no real change to his life when he started producing music that others would hear; all the songs on his debut just felt like the hundreds of other songs he had already furnished. Audibly, this means a certain intimacy from the start, one that caught the attention of a large number of fans of this band, and one that continues to hold the attention of indie music aficionados with The Rip Tide.
The first song, “A Candle’s Fire,” starts off with some quiet accordion and then jumps right in to the horn’s ablazin’, jangly, folk pop that they do so well. After a brief instrumental interlude, Condon’s deep, yet alluringly nasal tones chime in, and the song carries on, backed by the rolling, marching band-sounding drums. It’s a good opening number, but it is no “Santa Fe,” or “East Harlem,” the two songs that follow it, which happen to feel like the singles for the album, as they stand out from the rest of the tracks on The Rip Tide. “Santa Fe” has synth backing that weirdly fits in with the classic instruments that Beirut introduced you to on their recent EP’s. “East Harlem,” the third track on the album, plays with the cohesive elements of Beirut’s normal sound, by having choppy percussion and constant piano carry the song.
Sadly, as this record progresses, it does not climax as all good records should, but simmers to its mediocre end. When I say mediocre with this band, it does not really mean the classic definition of boring and blegh that may apply to other music. For Beirut, a mediocre track means one that is still significantly better than what most bands produce, but with the expectations that I have for them, the tracks fall a little flat. There just isn’t that explosion into new territory that will blow a new or old listener away.
If you’ve listened to anything that Beirut has produced prior to this record, and liked it, then you will find that you will probably like this just as much. Sonically, this band doesn’t really go anywhere that far away from previous efforts, but this should not be a deterring factor; the group doesn’t go in a negative direction either. The result is a collection of songs, some better than others, which should fit nicely into your regular listening queue.
Download: Beirut – New Harlem [MP3]