Beirut - The Rip Tide
Record Label: Pompeii Records
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Beirut's third studio album The Rip Tide ventures off from the band's previous two albums and heads into a more pop-orientated direction. It's not a complete turn of direction, you can still tell that it's a Beirut record, but there is a definite difference between The Rip Tide and Zach Condon's other works as Beirut. In a way, The Rip Tide isn't necessarily as interesting as 2006's Gulag Orkestar or 2007's The Flying Club Cup, but it is a more solid record from front to back and more accessible to people who are new to Beirut.
The Rip Tide presents a more polished feel to the band's sound, leaving behind the elements which exposed the previous albums being recorded in a bedroom and makeshift studio respectively. The Rip Tide was recorded with the band playing together and Condon going back to add the vocals after all of it had recorded, something that the band didn't do with the first two releases. Also, the album was written by Condon while living in isolation for a few months in a cabin in New York, an idea influenced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver's decision to create For Emma, Forever Ago in isolation in Wisconsin. The result of this isolation was a different record from Beirut than we've seen before.
While the album still shows the band's heavy European influence in its sound, as you can hear in the opening track "A Candle's Fire," there is a feeling in the album that Condon recognized and embraced where he came from with this release. The album attempts to show us a growth in Condon's ability to write music and it accomplishes just that. However, in accomplishing that, it has also sacrificed a noticeable portion of the band's previous sound and feel, that many fans had come to love. I'm not saying that Beirut has completely left their sound that makes them so distinguishable in today's market behind, because they haven't, but with The Rip Tide there is a more polished sound and while that isn't necessarily a bad thing, there is still a different feel to it. Even with this somewhat different feel, there are still plenty of great songs, such as "Santa Fe" and "East Harlem" and Condon's voice hasn't gotten any less wonderful with this release either.
Don't get me wrong, The Rip Tide is a really good, solid release from Beirut. And, first time listeners of the band will find this to be a very accessible introduction to their sound. There is definitely a more professional and polished sound and feel to the record though, which might be a pretty noticeable difference to people who are already familiar with the band and its sound, but it is something that is to be expected as artists grow and change with time. I'm sure that the Zach Condon of 2011 isn't the Zach Condon of 2006, something that is applicable to plenty of artists and people. And with that in mind, even though I find it to be Beirut's weakest release to date, The Rip Tide is still worth plenty of listens, because it isn't their weakest release by very much.