Now onto their fifth release, Beirut‘s blend of indie rhythms and world sounds has long made for warm, nostalgic listening, horns interjecting over shuffling drums and rich keys. Gallipoli does not attempt to present anything radically different, with the band entrenching further into their own sound, but remaining reassuring consistency.
Emerging amidst a wave of folk troubadours in the mid noughties, Zach Condon and his band have focussed and evolved their twee sound through the chart baiting Rip Tide to the more stripped back NoNoNo. Condon talks of his latest record starting in his mind when he had his old Farfisa organ shipped from his parents home in Santa Fe to his then home in New York. The organ was used to write much of Beirut’s first two records, and with this comes a sense of familiarity and comfort in his work, most notably on the uke led ‘Varities Of Exile’.
Despite the relatively safe sonics of the record, the upheaval of a move to Europe and Berlin for Condon during the writing process brought with it new experiences and influences. The title track, for example, was written after coming across a celebratory church procession, led by a brass band in the town from which it takes its name; the result, warm and spacious, enchanting and knowing. Elsewhere the instrumental ‘Corfu’ is tinged with Balearic rhythms and throughout the record it is the sounds and textures that provide the most interest.
The eastern tones of Gulag Orkestar have been scaled back, drawing instead on the European baroque sounds of The Rip Tide. There is a depth and subtlety to the songcraft that rewards repeated listens. Songs breathe through the instrumentation and organic, yet experimental, recording process. Horns remain the most prominent element of most tracks, but they are underpinned and supported by shuffling percussion and the Farfisa organ, as shown on ‘I Giardini’ and ‘Gauze fur Zah’. ‘We Never Lived Here’ in particular is a beautifully pieced together record of layered vocals, poignant keys and piercing horns, with the low pitch of the instruments exposing Condon more than we may be accustomed to.
There are moments of subtle lyrical catharsis for Condon on ‘When I Die’ and ‘Family Curse’, who speaks openly about how music provides an opportunity for escape. However, for the most part the lyrics are secondary to the composition of each track, with the catharsis a more self-indulgent experience for its writer than relatable emotional experience for the listener.
When taken as a whole, the record probably runs two tracks too long, but the familiarity of the bands nostalgic sounds will still provide plenty to entertain long time fans. Will it be enough to win new listeners, in a time when indie rock has moved so far from the mid-noughties in which Beirut emerged is unclear, but regardless the band have added yet another strong record to their discography.
Beirut kick off a headline tour in Brooklyn this evening, and are set to play a massive set of dates across North America and Europe, with a show at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, Leeds Town Hall and Manchester’s Albert Hall planned for this April. Full tour dates and tickets available HERE.
Gallipoli is out now via 4AD Records and can be downloaded or streamed HERE.
Upcoming UK Tour Dates
10 – Albert Hall, Manchester
11 – Leeds Town Hall, Leeds
12 – Hammersmith Apollo, London