Packing several coming-of-age clichés, the story of trumpet-toting troubadour Zach Condon is a prime example of the bedroom-band success. His version goes something like this: Singer-songwriter drops out of college and takes a life-changing trip to Europe. Singer-songwriter reluctantly returns home and records Euro-folk tracks in suburban New Mexico under the name Beirut. Blogosphere catches on. Singer-songwriter moves to Brooklyn, forms band and plays opposite Eminem at Lollapalooza.
Condon cloaked himself in an entire wardrobe of musical influences from his travels, directly taking from the Balkan and French folk he encountered abroad. That takes cojones considering he could have easily been written off as an art-brat tourist with a ukulele. And, well, he was by some.
If you’re one of the naysayers, hear this: His group’s latest release, The Rip Tide, is the least derivative in the catalog. Central European and Latin American sounds still linger in the restrained brass blurts and acoustic flutterings, but the new songs are more collages than pastiches. “Santa Fe” even features a drum machine, albeit an antique one.
Condon also has toned down his ululating vocals—a pleasant change from the mostly charming, but at times cringeworthy, dramatic falsetto that dominates the older records. He’s igniting our wanderlust instead of showing off his postcards.