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Beirut brings in ‘The Tide’

September 15th, 2011

Beirut is one of those bands you have to be in the mood to listen to. Their emphasis on strings and horns might cause their sound be considered “too pretty” for some, and Zach Condon’s lulling voice has a tendency to put people to sleep.

But with their latest LP, “The Rip Tide,” Beirut has managed to put together a fine album that plays off their strengths, but is also their most accessible yet.

After one listen, no one would ever guess that Beirut’s front man, Condon, is from New Mexico.

Beirut’s Balkan folk rock sound has no problem being stuck in the past. Its worldly European aesthetic is what has made the band stick out so far.

With each new album, they have added more and more instruments to their repertoire, but with “The Rip Tide,” they have stripped down to just the bare Beirut necessities (piano, strings and horns). The worldly influences are still heard, but Condon and company have managed to forge their own unique voice, a record that is Americana at its heart.

In this small record, clocking in at just over 30 minutes, Condon packs just about everything the band has to offer.

If you want a sunny, more pop-oriented song, look no further than the opening track, “A Candle’s Fire.”

This is Beirut as you’ve come to expect them. Bouncing drums and flaring horns accompany one of Condon’s best vocals on the album. If you’re in the mood for a melodramatic ballad, you’ll want to listen to “Goshen” or the title track.

Both feature haunting piano melodies and beautiful vocal harmonies. Some may still find themselves dozing off during a listen, but they can be certain to wake up once the next song comes on. As an album, “The Rip Tide” is an energetic, baroque-pop-rock affair.

The first single, “Santa Fe,” is the best on the record, and represents one of “Rip Tide’s” biggest strengths. It wouldn’t sound too out of place on pop radio.

Condon sings of his hometown, backed up with beautiful string and horn arrangements, and an awesome keyboard part that breaks down barriers and demands that everyone nod their heads, or at least tap their feet.

Condon’s voice is probably the strongest aspect of the record. He’s grown up since the band released their first album in 2006, when he was only 19.

His voice has matured and become fuller and strong enough to counter the sometimes overpowering strings. It is sweet, sincere, and inviting, and its best friend is a mandolin.

It’s a short-listen album that packs the same punch as a long one.

It is both a terrific stand-alone effort and an important stepping stone for the band as they come into their own.

On the album’s gorgeous penultimate track “The Peacock,” Condon repeats “He’s the only one that knows the words.” After “The Rip Tide,”

I imagine a lot more people will come to know them.