When I first heard “The Rip Tide,” Beirut’s third full length LP, I thought it was small, simple – boring even. This is definitely an album that took three or four listens to fully hit me.
I always liked Beirut for its simple song structures and also its enormous sound. When I first listened to this album, I found myself missing the huge horn buildups, like on “Postcards from Italy” or the title track from their first album, “Gulag Orkestar.” It also lacked the intricate string and horn arrangements that I loved on “The Flying Club Cup.” It wasn’t until a few days ago when I listened again I fully understood how great “The Rip Tide” is.
Other than the first single, “East Harlem,” all the songs were written by Condon after he moved to New York a few winters ago. The album shows significantly less reliance on foreign sound. “Gulag Orkestar” was deeply influenced by the Balkan music of Eastern Europe, and “The Flying Club Cup” had a traditional French sound with accordions and strings. Conversely, “The Rip Tide” shows Beirut’s pop side, with more traditional strong structures and accessible hooks.
Beirut is a band I’ve been following for a quite a while, and though I was at first put off by this album, I’ve grown to adore it as yet another artistic venture from the brilliant Zach Condon.
Highlights from the album for me include “East Harlem,” “Santa Fe” (Condon’s home town), the soaring and aesthetically pleasing trumpets on “The Rip Tide,” and “Vagabond.”
After much consideration, I think that “The Rip Tide” is my favorite Beirut album. It is by far the most consistent, and has the most relatable lyrics. And while it does stray from my previous perception of Beirut, isn’t that what artists are supposed to do? Evolve? Progress? Grow?
I’m buying this album on record this weekend, and I suggest you do too. Beirut is one of those bands that sound better on vinyl, if you ask me.