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Review: Beirut, "The RipTide"
By Robert Packard

Although Zach Condon uses “East Harlem,” the lead single from his latest release as Beirut, to lament how “another rose wilts” in the titular city, it is clear this stellar act is only just beginning to blossom.  A Santa Fe, NM native, Condon left the states at only 17 to visit Europe and live with a cousin.  It was here, amidst the Balkan mountains, that his love for Eastern European folk music was ignited.

Upon returning to the states, Condon spent the next two years releasing his debut and sophomore albums.  Replete with horns, stomping percussion, swelling chorals and unique instrumentation, these efforts helped solidify Beirut’s standing in the indie community.  Yet, save an Oaxaca/electronica influenced EP released in early 2009, fans have been left craving for more of their Balkan-infused fix.

Now, in 2011, nearly four years has past since the last, official studio album.  Thus, the announcement of “The Rip Tide,” which became available for pre-order on Aug. 2, was a welcomed turn of events for many listeners.

Some may have fears that, in the five years since the mostly self-made debut recording dropped, Condon has grown past Beirut’s creative capacity.  Yes, Condon had a band recording with him in the studio this go around, and this is certainly a departure from his early days of holing himself up in his bedroom to record alone.  Still, a new strength — a lively lightness — is injected into “The Rip Tide” by this addition.

Those longing for a rehash of 2006’s “Gulag Orkestar” may be disappointed.  But, for those who’ve watched Beirut develop from a fledgling project of great potential to the massive, trans-continental group it is today, “The Rip Tide” is an affirmation of talent.  Fittingly, it’s also the first Beirut record to be released on Condon’s own Pompeii Records label, ensuring that this and future albums will be under his complete creative control.

What can listeners expect from Beirut in the future?  More releases of this caliber, hopefully.  Although Condon clearly has a severe case of wanderlust, as he croons towards the end of “East Harlem,” “Oh, the sound will bring me home again.”  And, if his actions are any indication, Condon’s true home is in Beirut.

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