There was always something classically-ordained about Beirut’s music. Throughout his career Zach Condon has always been able to infiltrate melodies and harmonies with tremendous horns, strings and percussion. The former – boisterous and brash – were always the most direct; as the brass of the band Condon always ensured that his music was rooted in a current of bellowing horns. This is probably why some of the more ‘fanfare’ style of music off his previous release, March of Zapotec / Realpeople Holland, was always too much of a lull for some. Songs like “On a Bayonet” seem to strike stunning progress and skill, if you ask me, but for many it was a far cry from the dazzling magic of songs like “Elephant Gun” and “Postcards from Italy.”
Music is definitely a strident science to master: to some it would simply be as if Condon is continuing to flex his muscles into different, new theory. It goes without saying that the second half of that aforementioned album, the Holland section, was a poppier side of Condon’s on display: electronic if you’d like. But while a musician’s own passions and desires are something to take not of, Beirut has never been about conforming to the tendencies of today but rather, Condon and Co. have pulled the reigns and tightened the structure with a new album in The Rip Tide that pulses with more tremendous musicianship and strong song craft.
Regarding the classical side of his craft, Condon fills the music with horns that join hands with their corresponding partners for fluid sentiments. The opening song, “A Candle’s Fire,” burns with burrowing tubas and trombones that blow down the doors while the trumpets flutter above. The shaking of the percussion drives a choir of horns as they reach the middle where Condon’s voice continues to melt within. It’s not as if The Rip Tide is the combination of previous efforts but more an extension, an addition, to the greater Beirut efforts of the past. When you hear the distinct bell of a trumpet and stomping piano on “Vagabond” it’s obvious that Condon has developed his own, distinct bell to ring.
Even the album’s closure, “Cuixmala,” is the culminating ring of horns paraded around and around in one huge circle of sound. Like Sufjan Stevens, Condon arranges the meeting place while the instruments control the journey on getting there and in the end, a fitting close. The smooth tapping entrance of “East Harlem” recalls the fantastic sonic scope that Condon’s music can reach and with a crown of horns for support it’s easily one of the album’s highlights. Soft and strumming along the growing of sounds it’s decorated with soaring vocals and a melody that ticks and tocks like a clock. In circular motion, Condon steers the band through a climactic ending that finds the instruments all connecting at the closing junction.
It’s hard to remember that Beirut has been around now for five years. Through that time the band has continued to work in relentless pace with music that is still being discovered today. Even with The Rip Tide there is plenty to be said about the way Condon is able to deliver terrifically solid music by way of a classically-enhanced view. Such music deserves strong praise, even when it’s simply another great album to hear from one of music’s many rising stars.