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Beirut: The Rip Tide (Album Review)

A songwriter lost on an eternal gap year – his recorded output has journeyed through eastern Europe (2006’s Gulag Orkestar), Paris (2007’s The Flying Club Cup) and Mexico (2009’s March of the Zapotec EP). But unlike most gap years, the discoveries have been more satisfying than a dodgy bracelet and some rug you’ll never unfurl. Condon’s third full-length album is the first that doesn’t come specifically geo-tagged – rather, the focus here is on his oft-underrated melodies. The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt is the obvious reference point, a comparison encouraged by Condon’s sonorous vocals. Brass still figures largely, but it’s not always centre stage: Goshen digs its foundation with solitary piano, whereas Santa Fe embraces a lo-fi electropop sound. When Condon does bring out the reinforcements, such as on the stunning East Harlem, the impact is greater for his previous restraint. It’s less flashy than previous efforts, but the thrill here is of witnessing a songwriter’s talent maturing. (review by Tim Jonze)