Zach Condon aka Beirut celebrates the 11th anniversary of not using the farfisa organ he used to write his first two albums by dragging it wheezing out of retirement to help get things back on track after the so so so No No No. After breaking his arm (no explanation given), he spent an intense month in a semi-isolated studio writing this his fifth album which the press release describes as unintentionally more visceral than the last two. So there.
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What does the famed Pitchfork-friendly indie artist do when inspiration begins to wain? Get his old organ out. Yup Zach Condon has returned to the implement he used to make such albums as Gulag Orkestar and The Flying Club Cup and gets some impressive results on this his fifth album. He's still using horns and accordions a plenty but sometimes it seems the sheer joi de vivre of those early albums is lost somewhat. Life I suppose.
The title track is probably the most impressive thing here. That organ has an underwater type sound to it whilst Zach adds in his usual 'Stop the Cavalry' style brass band stuff on an impressive track that would be nice to hear your local Salvation Army band play this Christmas. On 'On Maineau Island' is a lovely tropical instrumental piece with distorted organs, mariachi pipes and a marching band style drumming and suggests that Condon might be best just doing nice things rather than the complex songwritery things he tries elsewhere. I'm not a long term Beirut fan so this observation could be a little wayward but his voice is a little depressing isn't it? Some of the music here is gorgeous but Condon's whine brings it down a notch a little like Thom Yorke does with Radiohead. When he sounds cheerful as on the Beach Boys like 'Landslide' it helps things along a bit.
I have a suggestion. Can Condon just make an album of tropicalia styled instrumentals? Both the aforementioned 'On Maineau Island' and the utterly gorgeous 'Corfu' are beautiful examples of easy listening exotica that I want to hear more of. Some really good stuff here and it's probably all down to that organ.
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