Named after the capital city of Lebanon, Beirut has been a member of interest in the indie rock community since it was formed. Originally a solo-project of front man Zach Condon, the band has expanded in size, genre and appeal ever since the beginning, and with their third full-length album “The Rip Tide,” Beirut looks to continue this expansion.
The many instruments Beirut is known to blend and bend are featured in “The Rip Tide,” such as trumpet, piano, ukulele, cello, tuba, French horn, accordion and more. Condon began Beirut with little more than his trumpet and ukulele and has been playing both for a good part of his life, so the band has a diverse sound while not seeming forcibly inserted or disingenuous. This is not the case with several other indie groups who, lacking their own sound, decide to include something rare like a trombone to differentiate themselves from other bands, and fall flat.
Beirut has a tendency to emulate music not typically found in the American indie scene. Instead, Condon draws on a wealth of music variety from around the world. This can be heard in the first track “A Candle’s Fire,” with lilting European accordion, or in “Payne’s Bay,” whose arrangement would fit within Mexican horn collections fairly easily. That being said, the arrangements in “Tide” are unique even for Beirut.
The sound is at once familiar and new, combining elements of past albums with new vibes that don’t immediately seem to fall into any category other than a maturing, innate sound the band is growing into. It’s usually curtains for a band that stagnates and becomes less of an “original” intellectual property. However, with many popular indie acts, developing a specific, recognizable “sound” is important. With “Tide,” Beirut narrows its focus towards this aim.
The sound is not the only notable part of the album, either. Combined with typical Condon elements such as the unique instrumental variety, there is also a fundamental love for lyrics. Some of the strongest songs on the album have fairly simplistic lyrical compositions. “East Harlem,” a single released earlier this year, only contains two verses of four lines each, which repeat and cascade. That being said, the listener will never find the lyrics lacking or repetitive. Combined with the quality of the vocals, the lyrics convey an overwhelming feeling of intimacy and honesty and are perhaps made more meaningful due to that understated simplicity they embody.
This album is strong in general, and while a slight departure from the past two albums, Beirut’s third effort is well made in “Tide.” Both old fans and the unfamiliar will find something they can enjoy, with complaints (if any) not aimed at the shift, growth of the band, but instead that nine tracks might leave some listeners still hungry.