Friday, February 08, 2008

Beirut - The Flying Club Cup

Zach Condon aka Beirut is the type of artist that makes you feel somewhat inadequate. When you combine his age (22), prodigious talent (multi-instrumentalist and vocalist), with his high-caliber and unrelenting output (2 albums released 15 months apart) you feel like you've accomplished so little. Well, maybe you don't but the thought has crossed my mind (with the ultimate example being John Keats). Either way, I try not to think about it and just appreciate it for what it is: an exceptional artist hard at work creating. Condon has said that he started recording music in his early teens and dropped out of high school in Santa Fe, NM at 16 to travel through Eastern Europe where he was exposed to Balkan gypsy folk music that infused his debut album Gulag Orkestar (2006). On that album he played accordion, keyboards, saxophone, clarinet, mandolin, ukulele, horns, and glockenspiel while taking up vocal duties too.

Beirut's newest album entitled The Flying Club Cup (2007) really shows off everything that was promising on his debut. His exotic but not too exotic sounds, his love of piano-driven song making, his manner of building towards an apex 3/5ths through the song, and his wonderful love of string accompaniement (arranged by Owen Pallett aka Final Fantasy). The entire album is an enormous layer cake. Layers of sound, instruments, vocal tracks, and emotions. While the music is dense it manages to remain immensely satisfying. Beirut takes you to places you've (probably) never been all while recording at his home in Brooklyn, NY. In many ways he sounds like Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Sufjan Stevens, and Jeff Magnum (Neutral Milk Hotel) all rolled into one. He displays passion and feeling beyond his years that manages to come across with sincerity, while also displaying a sense of virtuosity in his arrangements. How about a video too, since it's Friday.

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