Pop & Rock 2011: 30 Best Albums
Building previous records around Left Bank leanings, Balkan folk, and a mélange of Euro-centric sounds, Beirut mastermind Zach Condon typically finds inspiration an ocean away and a century back. With excellent third album, The Rip Tide, he marches out of the Parisian café, looking inward and embracing Western pop without losing his affinity for multi-tiered composition. As the title suggests, inertia (in general) and movement (specifically) dominate both the thematic and musical landscapes. Overtly, "Vagabond" is about wandering and its jaunty keys and harpsichord augment that. On the other hand, "Santa Fe" ― Condon's birthplace ― contemplates home, tellingly using driving synths and horns. Similarly, marching drums on "A Candle's Fire" and the lyrical repetition of "Payne's Bay" keep the affair peripatetic. On "East Harlem," Condon coos, "Sound is the colour I know," and that notion permeates the entire LP. Every track slyly plays with form and function, carefully blending each constituent part. Highlights, "The Rip Tide" and "Goshen," are ostensibly simple, but their complexity comes through on each subsequent listen. The former, full of sparse brass, is lonely yet dense. Conversely, the latter seems like a straightforward piano ballad, though its sweeping horn and choral harmonies would disagree. A deeply considerate composer, Condon's unique balance of influences has always dominated the Beirut ethos. However, on The Rip Tide he re-focuses his curiosity, taking time for reflection and creating an entirely beautiful and insightful record in the process.
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