Across The Atlantic #3 - Beirut
This record is something of an oddity in today's indie climate. 19 year old Zach Condon aka Beirut sounds 20, maybe 30, years older than his tender years on Gulag Orkestar, his debut record. Steeped in the mysterious sounds and stories of the old Eastern Bloc, there are hints of Russian and German folk music embedded in the mix of ukulele’s, strings and brass that make this record sound anything but modern. This is a record that’s steeped in the past but as a means of understanding it; a way of taking the environment of your youth, your upbringing and shows how it can influence you and create something new and fresh. Some of the backing is provided by ex-Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeremy Barnes who plays accordion, violins and percussion and some corners have compared it to their dreamy alt-country, but it's not something that I hear.
Certainly this won't be to everyone's taste. My girlfriend only managed a couple of minutes of me playing it to her before it had to be turned off! But it's not difficult music or obtuse like, say, Scott Walker's recent album - it's just very different and certainly not something that you would hear played anywhere on the radio in this country. Although the lyrics can border on the mundane, it's Condon's vocals that are the real highlight. It ebbs and flows, hitting highs and lows in such an elegant way that you get drawn into it, floating along with it as it entwines with the lo-fi and yet beautiful music.
Having got plenty of pre-release chatter in the States, it's certainly split opinion between genius and dunce - Pitchfork and Stylus Magazine being the main champions - I just believe that its a great piece of work, a refreshingly beautiful listen that is the perfect antidote to the rush of skinny guys with guitars and spiky hair that seem to prevail at the moment.