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Album Review: Beirut - 'The Rip Tide'


By: Kiani Angus-Torres

Beirut’s latest endeavor, The Rip Tide, is an attentively orchestrated showcase of Zach Condon’s sincere and embracing songwriting technique. Their past records have laid a strong foundation for their signature Baltic-style brass sound, integrated with Cordon’s rich, low-tenor vocals, which are all at once haunting and enveloping.  The Rip Tide successfully takes on the challenge of theatrics without alienation, maintaining their usual moodiness, but with a perked up tone, and replacing a dirge or two with a waltz or a jig. 

The first three tracks are a catchy flourish of up-beat brass melodics, anchored by minimalist percussion and often complimented by accordion or strings.  The second song, “Santa Fe,” has synth in conversation with piano, while wonderfully braided in with a basic pop beat. “East Harlem,” the third track and first single, is similarly arranged, this time with a doo-doo-da-doo in the bridge and an appearance by Condon’s ukulele.  “Santa Fe” and “East Harlem” have the sweet, smooth, irresistible stickiness of a caramel cube; these are songs that will pop into our heads like a carnal craving, and stay for weeks at a time. 

By the time we’ve reached “Goshen,” track four, we’re ready for a slow dance, so Zach breathes deep and exhales a soft, affectionate plea to a former lover, as told with no more than a few piano chords, a simple snare beat, and horns that only hum along.  “Goshen” wails, without screaming, rendering our regrets.

Now that we’ve caught our breath, the waltzy “Payne’s Bay,” picks up the second half of the record.  Although at this point we’re on a full upswing from what we’ve come to know of this heady band, the lyrics retain their gravity, as in “Vegabond.” Here he sings about being “lost and not found,” while the song makes up-beat ascent towards a swinging bridge.

In 2008, Zach Condon canceled Beirut’s European tour in support for March of The Zapotec in order to preserve his health, stating that he wanted to deliver the highest possible quality show.  The delay on the release of his band’s latest record, The Rip Tide, was another such healthy decision. The Rip Tide shows Beirut’s ability to edit and refine their craft just-so; maintaining the form, but altering the fit. 

Rating: 5/5