A Slice of Fried Gold

Music Mondays

Monday, February 23, 2009

Recently, I've been looking to develop more direction in my blog, and I think the way to do that is to set more routines within it. Currently the only one I really have is the Weekend Edition, and I'd love to develop more new ones. On this one, I'm going to recommend a new or recently released album, plus guide you to a couple other interesting tracks from artists I'd recommend checking out. Now, let's get on with the show.

Recommendation of the week: Beirut - March of the Zapotec/Realpeople Holland 2xEP

I came in late to Beirut. It wasn't until I was piecing together my Best of 2007 when I finally listened to my mom (notice a trend? my mom listens to cooler music than you do) and started listening to one of the many albums I got for her in my college radio heyday: Beirut's Gulag Orkestar. Then I grabbed Zach Condon's follow up under the Beirut moniker, the Flying Club Cup, and sure enough, I was in love.

Since then, my love has only increased for Condon and his extremely unique and Eastern European influenced work. Besides Animal Collective and Eels, I've listened to no one more over the last three months, and my appreciation for the music has skyrocketed while pairing it with varieties of reading materials (it turns out that Beirut is a natural fit with almost everything I read).

Strangely, right as my interest is peaking, Condon threw down a sneak attack and released a double EP collection without me being aware of it until after it's release, but sure enough, as soon as I could get it, it was mine. The two EP's, which are titled March of the Zapotec and Realpeople Holland (after Condon's old electro pop work under the title Realpeople), could not be more disparate.

The former is what happens when Condon becomes enthralled with the idea of getting a 17 piece band together deep in the heart of Mexico to play some sort of Mexican/Balkan fusion version of his own work, while the latter is a throwback to his old work, as it's simple electro pop with trademark Condon warbles layered throughout. That last part is the weakness of the album however (not the EP, the warbles part), as Condon strongly emphasizes his songwriting from an instrumentation standpoint and greatly reduces his voice's role in the whole affair. There are a number of tracks where you keep thinking his voice is going to swing in, but sure enough, it never does. Over the years, I've grown quite the affinity for his voice, and being teased of the prospect is quite frustrating indeed.

However, the instrumentation is really what he's looking to push, and the first half of the album feels like a rough preview of where we could be going with the next Beirut LP in the best way possible. While some tracks feel like you could be hearing them in some sort Dia de los Muertos march in southern Mexico (in a "whose funeral is it?" sort of way) instead of the beautiful Eastern European celebration of tracks off his first LP's, life is abundantly clear in them at the same time, and so is the Condon songwriting voice. It feels like Condon is clearing the cobwebs and stretching his legs at the same time, and the results are alternately surprising and invigorating. However, the EP as a whole is overly short and filled with too many half tracks (or in the case of the leadoff track, 1/6th tracks) to be considered an outright success.

The latter EP is unlike anything Condon has released under the Beirut name before, but due to my love of two things (Zach Condon and electro pop), I predictably love this EP. While tracks like "No Dice" and "My Night with the Prostitute in Marseilles" may land on the side of cheesy beats, they still flow with an innocent and effortless charm. Standout track "The Concubine" feels like the spiritual sequel to "Scenic World" off Gulag Orkestar, and has a toe tapping and driving beat throughout that pairs incredibly with repetitive accordion and Condon's trademark vocal stylings.

It's as if Marc Bianchi from Her Space Holiday tried to electronically recreate a Beirut albums instrumentation and chose to let Condon sing the vocals still. The results are occasionally spellbinding.

So, while the first EP feels like a bit too much like a teaser (but a delicious one at that), the second EP more than makes up for it with a solid 19 minutes of unique Beirut materials. I'll take whatever I can get from Condon, especially when it's fun, interesting, and truly unique like these tracks.

Beirut - March of the Zapotec/Realpeople Holland 2xEP: B+

Track to stream:

- Check out the new Cursive single "I Couldn't Love You" (off Mama, I'm Swollen)
- Two new tracks from the new Bat for Lashes' album Two Suns on their Myspace
- The White Stripes performing on Conan O'Brien's last episode (it means the world to Conan for you to watch this)


Erik said...

I'm sold. I had the pleasure of seeing Andrew Bird rock the house Saturday night. Man what a show. The crowd absolutely loved him. I've never seen so many scarves under one roof in my life either.

David Harper said...

I despise you. The only time I ever saw Andrew Bird I was double fisting Bud Lights in the beer garden and having the time of my life with some friends at Bumbershoot. Yes, I was double fisting Bud Lights at an Andrew Bird show. Needless to say, I would not have fit in, regardless of whether or not I was wearing a scarf.

Andrew Bird is the man though. Love the guy to pieces, although I do think Noble Beast isn't as good as his last two albums.

Definitely check out the Beirut album though. I feel like you'd be pleased with it, although it's super short.

Erik said...

I just listened to it at work today! Good stuff, I really enjoy it.

Patty said...

We're in Vegas!

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