Zach Condon has finally found himself
The word ‘precocious’ has long trailed [a]Beirut[/a]’s Zach Condon. He released his debut album, [b]‘The Gulag Orkestar’[/b], at 19, inspired by discovering Balkan folk music during a period spent in Europe after quitting high school. From that album, it was clear that Condon was a singular young man, convincingly old before his time thanks to his handsome, oaky brogue, and in search of any escape from his New Mexico youth, be it via the aforementioned Balkan strummings, French chanson (second album [b]‘The Flying Club Cup’[/b]), or the Mexican verve of his last EP, [b]‘March Of The Zapotec’[/b].
Condon seems to have returned to the places he left behind, and, now aged 25, he’s giving youth a stare square in the face to boot. The frilly orchestration of his previous releases has been pared down, and the songs sit easily inside the warm crackles of rocking chair creaks and bicycle spoke flutters. “[i]Sign me up, Santa Fe, and call your son[/i]”, he declares on an ode of acceptance to his hometown. The accordion lament of opening song ‘A Candle’s Fire’ forges a rousing start, quickly joined by festively raucous cornets, trumpets and tubas, with Condon awed by the fleetingness of the flame, and youth.
Unsurprisingly, place names have always loomed large in Beirut’s song titles, and here, American towns are where the proudest romantic moments can be found. [b]‘Goshen’[/b] is a gentle piano roll fit for lovers’ eyes to meet over, so closely recorded that the metal tang of the instrument’s strings chime gloriously with Condon’s voice. [b]‘East Harlem’[/b] sees him diving into history once more to furnish the tale of an “[i]uptown, downtown[/i]” divide with horns from the area’s Italian past, rather than Spanish present. ‘Payne’s Bay’’s fiery brass refrain couches him singing, “[i]This town’s alone, and therefore I see no end in sight[/i]”. These ideas of acceptance, hope and personal reflection make [b]‘The Rip Tide’[/b] an accomplished, restrained record, which sees Condon forgetting his travels, and forging his own native sound.