“Oh it’s been a loong time, looong time, now…” – friends, if you can finish this phrase, we are both fans of the beautiful, the brilliant, the only Beirut. If you know not of what I speak, here is the perfect opportunity to tune in… (see what I did there?).
This band, originally introduced to me by my savvy sister (like many bands before) has quickly become one of my absolute favorite sound experiences. I say experience, because each listen quickly transports me to a distant locale. Picture a dimly lit cobblestone street somewhere in Southeastern Europe; you’re slinking down the city sidewalk and swaying to the sounds of a distant accordion – the taste of wine on your tongue and the smell of the sea in your wake. Sounds good right?
It seems the globally influenced group has nailed this indie-meets-balkan-folk feel with deep, nasally winds (trumpet, trombone) and I cannot get enough of Zach Condon’s smooth, slow rolling vocals – completely sway-worthy. Actually, in a piece for The Guardian author Ally Carnwath describes the sound of their earlier albums as being “full of swelling choruses and sumptuous, brassy melodies…”
which I love, it’s spot on.
In this interview (a both fascinating and fun read), Condon let’s us in on the making of the band’s previous album The Riptide – sharing that he moved to a cabin in upstate New York for 6 months. His process – inspired by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (also clever) – became one of ‘I used to drink cognac at night and started smoking a pipe next to the fire’ (sounds dreamy doesn’t it?) and out of this American recluse nostalgia came a more pure, simple approach to hooks and melodies.
Ironically, it seems they’ve continued to strip down and simplify the sound for their newest album No, No, No which still pays homage to Condon’s early Balkan influences, but also highlights his American heritage in a new, subtler, less stylized way. The band made it’s debut on NPR’s World Café and in the interview here we learn that Condon’s process this time was preceded by endless touring that landed him in the hospital, questioning whether or not he was ‘cut out for this’. After a brief hiatus from music, he began writing again (quietly rejoicing inside) and the result – what seems to be a brief, simple, and sweet sound of harmonious self-discovery.
We had the great pleasure of attending their show in San Diego (see photo below) and it delivered all of the magic promised, and more. As I’m sure Ryan could confirm, I swayed all night, up and down, in and out of my seat, the taste of wine on my tongue, the smell of the sea on my skin, and that dimly lit cobblestone street floating distantly in my dreams.
A Few Fav’s…Have a listen
“Elephant Gun” – live at Viejas Arena, 2015