The Rip Tide
Release Date: Aug 30, 11
It is, to say the least, difficult to not love a band that sounds like Beirut. A band that moves dreamily between continents of music with the joy and fanfare of a parade is eminently enjoyable, but yet, with their debut Gulag Orkestar it was hard not to crave something…more. Orkestar is a very fun album, but at times it felt so weightless that it would drift off in a particularly strong summer wind and be gone. So, it’s a pleasure to report that their third LP The Rip Tide builds on their established sound while also taking it in some truly lovely new directions.
On the pensive “The Peacock,” Zach Condon’s vocals approach the sorrowful, unusual for him; at their darkest Beirut have more commonly come off as melancholic, the perfect background music for TV shows and movies in need of soulful young men contemplating their existence while staring out the window. Crooning “He’s the only one who knows the words,” the accordion-driven ballad is an anchor for the record as a whole. If Orkestar was a summer trip abroad, Tide is music for the end of summer, for the bittersweet return home and as a herald of the turning leaves.
“Santa Fe,” with its airy keyboard pop, vaguely recalls the Postal Service at times in its homage to Condon’s hometown. “A Candle’s Fire” and “Payne’s Bay” inhabit some of the same spiritual territory as the Decemberists’ various shanty-esque ballads, but the latter band never had this much mariachi horn going on. And then there’s “East Harlem,” a major highlight of the album, which uses accordion as a backbone for a loping bit of indie-pop perfect for strolling through city streets in early September. If there’s any grievance at all to be levelled against Tide, it’s simply that it’s too short; 9 tracks is vastly too little for songs this beautiful.
If this review carries a lot of romantic connotation, then I can only say that this is the space Beirut have created. There may be deceptively little going on in their songs, but The Rip Tide carries a true gravity, especially in moments like “The Vagabonds of Old Town”: “Now as the air grows cold/The trees unfold/And I am lost and not found.” Summer’s over, kids, but with that end comes one of the finest, most subtly constructed albums of the entire year.