So here it is, plain and simple. I'm whole-heartedly in love with Beirut.
The accordions! The strings! The percussion! The horns! The ukelele! The Eastern European folk influenced chord structures! If you know me well, you will know that this list represents nearly all the musical quirks that make me the most happy. And Beirut has all of them, plus more, all driven by Zach Condon, the weirdly brilliant 21-year old New Mexican music prodigy, and rotating band of 6-8 friends.
I was first introduced to Beirut by a friend with Lon Gisland E.P., just after it came out early this year (Elephant gun was the big indie hit off this one). This sweet little E.P. of 5 songs just freaked me out; I was wild about it. So, like any woman obsessed, I went to the Electric Fetus that same day and bought Gulag Orkester, the band's first album (released 2006, you may have heard Postcards from Italy). Anyway, I was just almost dying waiting for the next release, and finally got it in October with The Flying Cup Club.
Now, The Flying Cup Club is a little different from the other two releases; not quite as gypsy, and much more steeped in French musical influence than Eastern European. It's not quite as rockin' and is more swoony and romantical (two words that I don't think are approved Webster's). The reviews of this album were mixed; some reviewers found it "obvious", others found it a "trimph". I agreed immediately with one of the most common observations: the horns are lacking the same prevalence and power as the previous albums, and I do miss that.
Regardless, I really LOVE this album. Condon's voice is syrupy (though often lacking some somewhat needed annunciation, if I may say), and the instrumentation is thick, dramatic, and orchestral. Oh, and very accordion heavy...let's thank the French for that (the band traveled and recorded in France while working on this album). In honor of their French travel, this week's photo of me is from my last round of French travel...in addition to folk instruments and minor chords, I am also a major Francophile (nerd). Anyway, the songs on this album convey feelings and images for me unlike many, like fuzzy childhood memories or recounting your grandparent's stories. It feels nostalgic and other-worldly all at the same time, kind of like looking at old photographs. As with the other albums he borrows heavily from folk traditions, creating a delicious fusion of sounds and rhythms. I think it is beautiful music.
Hard to pick which song I want to highlight, but I'm going to pick Guyamos Sonora, the third track on the album. There are beautiful strings, lovely mandolin, a good solid percussion part, warm horns, and the transitional bridge part at about minute 2 is fantastic. Plus, I really love the vocals on this one...the lyrics I can understand are really wonderful.
Here's a youTube of a video the band performing the song live in the studio; La Blogothèque filmed each track of this album in Brooklyn. The sound quality is good and I love seeing the musicians. No lyrics anywhere online yet, sorry...maybe that is because they are often unintelligible. Just use your ears and imagination...
I needed to add this as a little nugget, because I love the video too much. Zach performs Penalty, also off the new album...playing the ukelele...in Paris...on the street and in a cafe...after getting kicked out of a different cafe. Also, I like the video because I'm kind of in love with him...what can I say, he's a French speaking, slightly disheveled looking, messy haired, lanky musician...all things that lead to my downfall. Damn it, just watch the video...