Zach Condon is a compositional genius. Of course, I'm only parroting the sea of Beirut lovers around the interweb, regular web, and globe. And parroting in this case with full, unadulterated honesty. Beirut is incredible. And after the diversion (a beautiful one) of March of the Zapotec, etc., this band/project/concept/amazingness returns with something incredible that leans toward the form of The Flying Cub Cup, but also strides ever forward into a world of infinite sonic promise. The Rip Tide, like so many albums released this year, has some '80s vibing all over it. Even Beirut is not immune, as synth-y tones occasionally populate the tracks here. But rather than emulating Ric Ocasek or Bryan Ferry, et al., Condon keeps the baroque majesty of the band's ethos intact, letting the horns and choral vocals to the heavy lifting, while using those flecks of nostalgia as a garnish. I'll get this out of the way now... you have no reason not to listen to this album. Your life will be better for it. Your day will be better for it. And who knows, it may increase the size of a certain part of a man's anatomy... (probably not).
"A Candle's Fire" is strong, catchy and pastoral, everything you'd want from Beirut, either as a long-time fan or as a late adopter. But the real greatness comes in when "Santa Fe," a set of bounding keys and pounding drums turn into a horn laden, memorable, forever LOVABLE track that will keep your feet moving and your dreams soaring. Condon and the boys dial it back to a more waltzy love song with "East Harlem," with lyrics that set a clear stage of place and time, namely "waiting for the night to fall." Thunderous drums and beautiful horn accents keep the song lively and energized. With "Goshen" we feel instant sadness, instant quiet and instant ease. Delicate piano and Condon's voice usher us into a story of sacrifice and mistakes. A slow march comes in, with funereal horns. It's elegant and pristine and devastating in a quiet way. Violins and strings blend us away from that sadness into the far more spritely and excited "Payne's Bay." It's a song about getting away from a town. It's about getting away from winter. It's about getting away from the end... or wanting to. The title track "The Rip Tide" is epic. Entirely, undeniably epic. A start with strings and rattling drums, a subtle looping, percussive, electronic tone, it's brilliance.
The jaunty "Vagabond" opens with motivated keys and a gorgeous horn riff that feels as if it were pulled from the soundtrack of some movie that exists outside of time. Condon croons like a mutha on this song. And his lyrics about wandering, somewhat happily aimless, nicely contrast the comforting structure of the track. Everything calms back down with the pastoral "The Peacock," which combines beauty and social commentary to illustrate the passing of time, a sort of death of time, and a great return to the beginning. The beautiful chorus of vocals makes the track feel deep and complex while remaining so intimate. And the closer, "Port of Call" lifts the spirits with some charming xylophone and calm strumming. It feels like the acoustic version of the song you might know one way that closes a show and leaves the crowd in awe. When the keys come in, the song flourishes. It's a great way to close out the album on an optimistic, but measured, intelligent note.
You can listen to The Rip Tide in its entirety via NPR's First Listen here. You can also stream it up below. But, you should really get this, and toss some dime and nickels toward Beirut and Zach Condon. Art that is this well executed, glorious and beautiful needs to get some cash monies in return.
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