Beirut - The Rip Tide (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


The Rip Tide (2011)


Beirut is a band I should have been into for a long time. As a trombonist (my first of many instruments, and one I played from fifth grade through college) as well as a lover of all sorts of "nerdy" folk instruments like accordion (thanks, Polish blood) and ukulele, these guys are a band I wish I had started. "A Candle's Fire" eases in with harmonium chords, then hits you with the most glorious chorus of brass you've heard in an indie rock song, probably ever. We get to hear plenty more of those wonderful brass tones throughout The Rip Tide, due much in part to singer/songwriter/ukulele player Zach Condon being a trumpet/flugelhorn player as well. "East Harlem" also has its fair share of intertwining horn lines, arranged beautifully in three-part (or more) harmony over top of ukulele and upright piano chords that plug away.

The Rip Tide is Beirut's third album. The first, Gulag Orkestar was recorded primarily by Condon in his bedroom and saw a 2006 release. 2007's The Flying Club Cup was the first with the then-assembled touring band on record, and then the double-EP March of the Zapotec/Holland arrived in 2009. While the band's influences merge traditional Eastern European folk with an indie rock sensibility, most of these previous releases have had tinges of other global inspirations. A trip to France inspired Cup, and a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico inspired Zapotec, and although Rip Tide does not have a specific link to a country or region, it instead finds Beirut combining all of their previous influences with American indie pop to create their most enjoyable album to date. It clocks in at a mere 33 minutes, which is surprising from a band I would have expected to crank out Arcade Fire-style epics. This just adds to the pop appeal of what could be a very "heady" band.

"Santa Fe" (named for the city where Condon grew up) saunters along with bouncing piano and uke chords, and a gorgeous melody of longing ("Another rose wilts in East Harlem / And uptown, downtown / A thousand miles between us"), so when the organ line layers on in the coda it's just icing. "Goshen" slows things down more with gentle horns that tuck into Condon's soothing croon. A couple tunes later and the title track slows things down again, with marching snare mixed with a light drum machine. "Payne's Bay" features strings as well as more horns, this time spicing it up with some double-tonguing and rips. This is some musical shit here, folks, and I just realized there is NO guitar on this album. Crazy, right? Awesome, yes? What really counts is that this is so, so enjoyable and never over-thought.

Not the normal Orgcore fodder, I know. But if you open yourself up to some very tuneful, well-arranged world indie (from hereafter referred to across the blogosphere as "windie") you will be rewarded. Surely to make my Top 20 this year to the tune of dozens of young punks chanting, "Go write for Pitchfork, you indie rock fuck!" Love it!