Originally the music project of New-Mexico-native Zach Condon, Beirut is an indie rock band which combines Eastern European music, Balkan folk, and Western pop music. While traveling through Europe in his youth, Condon fell in love with world music. This love prompted musical experimentation that resulted in the band. While attending the University of New Mexico, Condon recorded his first record, GulagOrkestar, in his bedroom. He shopped the record to labels and ultimately signed with Ba Da Bing! Records. Before releasing The Rip Tide, Condon founded Pompeii Records giving him full control over his music.
I find it difficult to review music. Of all art forms, it is the easiest to passively consume. I can listen to the same album every day during work without learning the lyrics or grasping the artistic structures surrounding the composition.
Moreover, people appreciate music for different reasons and different ways. Some need catchy melodies; others need deep lyrics; some want emotive lyrics; and others desire technical musicianship. If an album possesses one of these facets, it is a success for some but a failure for others. In the wake of these revelations, how could anyone critically evaluate popular music?
A Good Record
Having explained my troubles, let’s move to Beirut’s new release, The Rip Tide. I enjoy this record but I find it difficult to explain why I feel this way. The album does not contain an overarching theme and its music is not overly complex; but I still interact positively with its songs. Zach Condon’s weaving melodies, clever use of horns, and pristine production make for an enjoyable record.
To the Songs
Although the album carries no large-scale theme, the songs are intriguing. First single, “Santa Fe” offers an upbeat tune with tremolo instrumentation. During the chorus, Condon wails,
“Sign me up Santa Fe / Call your son / Signe me up Santa Fe / On the Cross Santa Fe / And all I want.”
Interestingly, Santa Fe possesses dual meaning. Speaking plainly, it refers to a city in New Mexico. This interpretation emits feelings of fondness for an urban landscape. Yet, Santa Fe also means “holy faith.” Thus, the lyrics could also be interpreted as a plea of belief.
“East Harlem” is another highlight of the record. With acoustic instrumentation, beautiful horn melodies, and lyrics of longing, the song unveils impeccably when Condon croons,
“Another rose wilts in East Harlem / And uptown downtown a thousand miles between us / She’s waiting for the night to fall / Let it fall, I’ll never make it in time.”
Lastly, The Rip Tide’s closing song, “Port of Call,” bookends the album perfectly. With ukulele-driven instrumentation, Condon provides perhaps his best vocal performance. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the lyrics of the song are my favorite of the record.
“And I, I call through the air that night / My thoughts were still blurry inside / We were closer then, I’ve been alone some time / Filled your glass with gin / Filled your heart with pride / And you, you had hope for me now / I danced all around it somehow / Be fair to me, I may drift awhile.”
Also, as an aside, the title “Port of Call” is etymologically related to Portugal giving the tune a setting.
The Parts that Comprise the Whole
With intriguing parts, it is easy to conclude that the whole of the album is excellent. Of course, music offers different conclusions for different people and I have found it difficult to convey the way I feel about The Rip Tide. Bottom line, though, is that I love the album enough to recommend it. So give the record a spin!
Verdict: 4.5 of 5