Beirut, Perfume Genius @ Altar, 12/10 – 12/11
As the lead singer, songwriter, and major creative force behind world-indie-music purveyors Beirut, Zach Condon is the sort of musician wunderkind who can inspire awe and jealousy in Â equal measure.
He possesses a casually incredible voice, a proficiency in at least eight instruments (accordian, saxophone, mandaulin, and clarinet to name a few), a cosmopolitan ability to boil down musical influences from the world over (specifically Spain and Eastern Europe) into an intriguing amalgam of exotic-American indie folk, and managed to write and recordÂ much of the group’s stunning debut album Gulag OrkestarÂ at the age of 19 in his bedroom while attending the University of New Mexico.
His talent level alone lent easy comparisons to pocket symphony masters like Andrew Bird and Sufjan Stevens, and after the group’s second album The Flying Club Cub
received universal acclaim in 2007, Â it appeared as if Beirut had established themselves as one of the most compelling and dynamic indie folk acts of their generation.Â Now, Â at the age of 26, Condon and his bandmates are touring behind their latest and arguably most focused album,Â The Rip Tide,Â released this past August on Pompeii Records.
As Condon said in an interview with the New York Times,Â The Ripe Tide was an attempt to hone his influences and focus his musical talents.
“I’m trying to be less of a dilettante with instruments,â€ he said this past August. â€œFor years I was picking up new instruments once a month, and for this (album) I was trying to focus a little more, stick with piano, ukulele and trumpet.â€
What resulted was a surprisingly economical collection of baroque pop tracks, as Condon showcased not only his ability to create effortlessly complex, ear worm harmonies, but also his sense of composition. Â The album’s best tracks possess jaunty melodies tinged with melancholy, while Codon’s lyricism remains poetically enigmatic.
“Another rose wilts in East Harlem/Uptown, downtown, a thousand miles between us,” Condon intones on the skipping, piano driven “East Harlem,” “She’s waiting for night to fall/Let it fall, I’ll never make it in time.”
“Payne’s Bay”Â proves to be the album’s centerpiece, a beautifully dense song with lush string sections, horn parts, rolling drums, and a happy accordian filling in the cracks. Eventually, the song breaks at the 1:30 mark to leave only the drums, french horns/trombone and Codon singing in a determined tone “Headstrong, today, I’ve been headstrong.”
The upcoming set of concerts for Beirut at Altar in the Strip District this Saturday and Sunday will undoubtably be a chance for this gorgeous album to get its full due, and with Condon and co. currently firing on all cylinders (at least according to a few choice YouTube clips) I can’t imagine the bill will disappoint.