Beirut – The Rip Tide (Pompeii)

From the first strains of A Candle’s Fire this album, Beirut’s third, resonates with their now-familiar sombre harmonies and eddying musical layers. Described as ‘folk pop’ or ‘Balkan pop’, Beirut (led by singer, multi-instrumentalist and cultural magpie Zach Condon) weaves world music influences through the fabric of contemporary pop to create a sound that is at once playful and stately, traditional and new.

“If I had known not to carry on that way it wouldn’t show in the creases on your face” mourns Condon in his distinctive dark molasses drawl. It’s this voice and the emotional nuances it traverses that prevents the album straying into twee, despite all the piano trills and cheerful horns. Without Condon’s sonorous sigh, tracks like East Harlem would be poppy to the point of anonymity. By contrast Payne’s Bay is rich with delightful instrumentation and is a real treat for the ears.

An intriguing blend of serious and sweet, this short album sounds like a dirge for the funeral of a smurf. While The Rip Tide lacks the thrill of Beirut’s previous releases, Condon remains a young man with plenty to offer. It’ll be interesting to see where this American abroad takes us on his next trip.

Kathryn van Beek

Click here to listen to Payne’s Bay from The Rip Tide