Tag Archives: Beirut

Top 10 Songs of 2011 – #3: “The Rip Tide” by Beirut

29 Dec

The Holy Beirut Trinity

When Beirut – the band not the capital of Lebanon – released their third studio album The Rip Tide the reviews were generally favorable, but a little critical of a “change” in sound. If you are not familiar with Beirut let me fill you in on what type of music they play. The band, which is truly the brainchild of Santa Fe native Zachary Condon, blends indie folk with Balkan influences. The result is this effortless combination of accordion, horns, tender vocals.

Beirut’s first two albums are strong European blends. Eastern European to be exact. The melodies are smothered with these musical sentimentalities and it is not surprising to get lost in Condon’s attachment to non-American world music. This is one of the reasons why Condon and the band has garnered a huge fan base. We all look for different sounds and musical experiences. Condon’s tender, European croon (because I can’t describe it any other way), combined with the monumental accordion of Perrin Cloutier, percussion by Nick Petree, skillful bass of Paul Collins, and brass work by Ben Lanz, Kelly Pratt, and Condon himself, form a beautiful Eastern music symphony that is a pleasure to listen to.

The Rip Tide, though, demonstrates a bit of a change from these elements that have initially made this band quite well known. This transformation has lessened the bands appeal for some. For me, Condon finally comes home.

Zach Condon

The Rip Tide was recorded in a six-month reclusive session in a cabin near the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival. If you want to close yourself off from the modern world for a while Bethel, NY, right off of 17, a long stretch of highway that I frequented going back and forth to Binghamton for school, is a good place to do it. The result? An American album with European influences as opposed to the other way around. And, in my opinion, the best songs on this album are stronger than any Condon has written in the past.

There are some absolute gems on the album. “Santa Fe” is a jaunty ode to his hometown. “East Harlem” is a true indie/pop song, also somewhat fast-paced with the trademark accordion and horns. But the title track “The Rip Tide” is the clear best song on this album. Why? It provides the best example of the blend of Balkan Folk and American Western.

The initial piano lays down a melody that will persist through the song’s 4:23 second existence. Layered on top of it is some rising percussion and the light striking of something that sounds like hollow metal (another element that remains throughout the song). This flows into horns that remind me of, well, Santa Fe. And here is what is so magical. These horns are multi-faceted. They both take on elements of Eastern European folk and old-school American westerns (similar to the album Rome which combined Italian composition with spaghetti westerns).

The song is carried by this creative melody and Zach Condon’s distinctive drawn-out voice that is supported by some back-up vocals in this piece. The horns are simply magical and they totally carry the song, though. That is my point of focus. And at the very end when a lone trumpet can be heard holding onto its last breath over the piano that began the song the listener is shocked to find a somewhat religious aspect to the song – a heavenly togetherness.

The lyric is short and repeated twice. It targets loneliness. I will leave you with it to ponder as you listen to the song over and over and over again.

And this is the house where I feel alone Feel alone now
And this is the house where I Could be unknown Be alone now
So the waves and I found the rolling tide So the waves and I found the rip tide


The Misfits

14 Oct

I’d like to pay homage to some bands that I haven’t quite gotten to talk about, not because of any faults with these bands, but because they each bring something different to the table.  Whether it be through interesting instrumentation, unique song structure or unique influences, I couldn’t quite fit the following bands into any other category. Here goes nothing.

They may have recently garnered a Grammy for Album of the Year and yet it’s still not the Arcade Fire’s best album.  Don’t get me wrong, the winning album is good, but it gets away from their baroque roots in favor a more modern rock sound.  “Neon Bible” and “Funeral” both sound like complete orchestras as many of the band members play multiple instruments, accentuated as band members switch up what they play during songs (compared to the new album which is more guitar heavy).  The varied instrumentation and the influences of multiple styles of music makes Arcade Fire more than a band that keeps churning out similar sounding albums, but a group of musicians that creates many different cool sounds.

Beirut also features a full band but centers really on a single particular influence not normally heard.  I mean, who listens to Eastern European folk music (like polka) and decides they want to start a band with it?  If you didn’t get the hint, that’s what the members of Beirut did, fusing Eastern European folk music with indie pop sensibilities, highlighting such a global span with songs in other languages, notably French.  Like  Arcade Fire, Beirut does not rely upon the guitar and instead mixes up instrumentation to create music corresponding to their influences.


6 Mar

Your sub-conscience can be a bitch… especially when using magic. As avid of a spell caster as I am, I still once in a while try to bite more [magic cookie] than I can chew. The result is my thoughts turning against me, forcing me to simultaneously fend them off while remaining socially acceptable. This is usually attempted via plenty of laughter and some very confusing dialogue most likely involving meta-physics.

Nothing like a friendly music exploring session turning into an exercise in masking your insanity to remind you why you always tell yourself this is the last time. Magic is a hell of a drug. Besides, sometimes thinking that everyone living in your house is just a figment of your imagination is definitely healthy for the soul… even if it has you shaking in half fear. It’s all in a good night’s fun.

Basically, Matt and I decided to have a music listening and sharing session, and I decided to eat a [magic cookie] or x3. Stuff happened, whether really, or in my mind… who knows?

But magic serves its purposes, which is how I, with Matt as my witness, bring to you a brand new term which will rock the very foundations of the internet.

Get ready.

There were hardcore breakdowns, which turn any song super heavy.

Then I invented chill breakdowns, which turn any song super relaxing.

And now I bring you…

A Folk Breakdown, which turns any song… super… ethnic?

I have but one example.

Pay no attention to the song, it’s really good at best, and wait till about 2:10 for the folk breakdown. It’s the sound of some random couple fighting in some foreign language in what could be a short clip from a foreign film set somewhere in some south-eastern European village. And it makes so much sense.

You listen to folk music because you want to connect with your roots and get a feeling for what your ancestors listened to, right? That’s what the name implies anyway because actually, most folk music is actually pretty modern and simply uses old instruments to get that folk sound. But regardless, you are connecting with the sound and you maybe picture in your head some rural villages and farm people.

And now, when this folk breakdown hits you are transported instantly into a scenario taking place in this imaginary rural village. It’s like watching a foreign movie without having to struggle to understand what’s going on because the music does all the speaking. I see it being used a lot more in the future…

And now, let’s backtrack to the actual music, because Beirut is a pretty good band. It started out as a solo project by a New Mexican sporting a mesmerizingly epic voice, a man by the name of Zach Condon. The band is characterized as combining elements of eastern European and Balkan folk sounds with that of mainstream western pop to create this really good music. The mixture of this with the man’s singing and the instruments creates this music that almost sounds unreal. The instruments used range from ukuleles to tubas and from violins to accordions. In your mind you want to picture a band of gypsies or like farmers from an unspecified hovel in Yugoslavia, but in reality it’s just a band of American hipsters being ironic.

But who cares? I cannot stress how awesome this man’s voice is. It is perfect for that Eastern European/ Balkan vibe. And me being ethnically Polish, it is something which I completely dig, down to my very core and roots. Previous to seeing a video of the singer, I always pictured him as some drunken old man, with an amazing voice for his age, wearing a flat cap and a grey suit, singing about some great revolution he partook in, somewhere in Poland.  And that’s the beauty of folk music. It’s specific to ethnic region. You can have folk music for every region on the planet. I’m starting Long Island Folk.

And as an added bonus – folk music is also educational! Why pay attention in history class when folk music tells you everything you’d need to know about it plus more. History class can’t convey the feeling of the olden days dammit!

Here is another song before I wrap this up.

The 3/4 polka intro mixed with the awe-inspiring vocals and the trumpets just get me every time. Like some weird but friendly dream unfolding around you. And when the bass drops I am transported to some rebel Polish army preparing to orchestrate a coup to take back the country sometime during the late 19th century. Truly a beautiful sound if you ask me. And I was also convinced that Mount Wroclai was an actual place in Poland that I’ve been to, until I tried to look it up just now. It seems that I imagined it. Folk music is heavy stuff I guess.


P.S. Before you ask about my sanity, please first have Matt explain what the hell 60’s psychedelic is all about, because that had me straight out terrified. My thoughts the other night were something like “Are these bands f*cking with me? Were people really that happy during the 60’s? How many drugs were involved in the making of this? And why does all of this sound like it’s not real?” Sorry Matt if I seemed confused towards the end, I was just making sure you weren’t spewing out pre-determined responses. Gotta make reality checks somehow…


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