Little Beirut – High Dive

Little Beirut
High Dive

Out of Portland, Oregon comes a quartet that is getting ready to take indie rock, or maybe even power pop, by storm. Although not technically their first release, High Dive is their first major release with their official lineup and full rhythm section. These boys are ready to go and they’ve got a solid album to back them up.

Full of jabs at the senior and junior Bush administrations, including events surrounding the war. Even the bands’ name comes from a George Bush Sr. visit to Portland over a decade ago when he gave the city the nickname after witnessing protesting by the citizens of the liberal city.

Starting off the album on the right foot, “She’s a Martyr” opens with a brief acoustic guitar riff that leads into driving electric guitar and charging drums for an instant get-out-of-your seat rhythm. Without being chock full of energy, “Sniper’s Lament” is equally catchy with jangly guitars, piano and electronic strings. The song sounds like thoughts rolling around in the head of someone told to take someone out who is having second thoughts and worrying about getting caught with lines like “The paper said / You made your bed / So don’t look back”. “The Lottery” picks it up a notch for a lively number while “Acid Wash Soul” is one of my favorites with nice vocal harmonies, driving guitars, and a super catchy rhythm.

What makes this album particularly good is not just the well-played instrumentation or lush vocal layers, but the amount of versatility from one song to the next which keeps the album interesting as songs dip from full throttle to gentle cruising speeds. “Loose Medusa” is another album favorite with Asian-inspired piano interjections over softly layered “ahh ahh’s” and catchy melodies. The vocals also seem to take on a different character, almost a dreamy sadness like someone forced to leave a loved-one behind. But even in a slower tune, the guys rock out on the chorus lines. “The Monsters Are Coming” is another mellow, piano ballad with breathier vocals and nicely done Shins-like harmonies over a catchy bass line.

One interesting and a little strange song, “Love During Wartime,” pokes fun at the war as well as Condoleeza Rice. “Come on Babe, kiss me and I’ll sing the same old song…tomorrow’s coming so kiss away the plans we made” he sings to Rice over muted horns in full Cake fashion along with jangly guitars and clacking percussion. The band explains that a love song to Condoleeza is a completely ridiculous thought given that she has been so desexualized to attain the power she has within her position. While this is an interesting thought the song could use some work and is a low point on the album. But this is the only track I have a problem with.

The album appeals to both sides, those looking for layers of depth and meaning and those looking for catchy music they can rock out to whether it’s in the car or on the dance floor. With memorable hooks, layered harmonies, guitar-laden rhythms and intelligently written lyrics there is little left to be desired on Little Beirut’s latest effort.