Published Sep 09, 2015Following a stint in an Australian hospital for exhaustion, indie music's best-known flugelhorn player, Zach Condon, returns with Beirut for their fourth studio album, No No No. The concise, 29-minute album was written during a tumultuous time as Condon was facing a divorce and touring extensively. The album was recorded in a two-week span in New York while the city was facing one of the most intense winters in recent memory; as a result, the tone of the record is warm and comforting, with a contextual focus on recovery.
In his almost ten-year career — quite impressive, given he's only 29 — Condon has been applauded for borrowing from international genres and experimenting with instrumentation and rhythm. While this album is recognizably lower key than previous efforts (see tracks like "Santa Fe," off 2011's The Rip Tide), Condon and crew — especially drummer Nick Petree — invigorate the compositions with a variety of beat choices. On "Perth," the tale of Condon's hospitalization, Petree adds a shuffling snare to audibly symbolize vigorous movement while Condon recalls "Last night, I combed the earth / You saw me at my worst / Ragged tires, burnt for miles / I ran until it hurt." Risks taken on the rhythm front can also be found on the drum and piano waltz of "So Allowed" and the Balkan folk beat of "Fener."
Despite rhythmic vitality and the addition of optimistic trumpet and trombone, Condon's lyrics reveal a man still suffering from loss and longing. Although none of the nine songs exceed the four-minute mark, the lyrics for each are even shorter by comparison, and are often repeated for emphasis. Repetition as a rhetorical device is perhaps most evident on "Fener," on which Condon sings, "I had to know, I had to know, where you had gone," or the title track, when Condon repeats the same stanza twice over. Condon is at the heart of each song, so while a hopeful tone is central to both the music and lyrics, No No No is a portrait of a man putting on a brave face while piecing his life back together, and it's all the more engaging for it. (4AD)