Beirut pulls out all the bells and whistles (almost literally) on its newest record, The Rip Tide, and though I had all but reserved my appreciation of baroque-pop for the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Andrew Bird, it's hard not to fall for the whimsical, upbeat orchestration of the Santa Fe, N.M., conglomerate.
Multi-instrumentalist Zachary Condon leads the band of merry players, which varies in size and personnel by show, switching off among flugelhorn, ukelele, mandolin, trumpet, and accordion, among others.
There's nothing complicated or overtly outlandish about the The Rip Tide, and it'd seem misplaced if Condon showed up wearing angel wings and neon tape--but that's not where the LP excels. Songs like "Santa Fe" and "Port of Call" feel paced and purposeful, offering meaning and depth in the way a composer writes a symphony: the crooning horns, youthful bells, and manipulation of time are part of a larger, grander picture.The title track is a nice snapshot of the album, making no promises to the listener: The mood leads you left, then the instrumentation tugs you right. A standard piano plays a few chords before a burst of horns and soft, rolling snare meander up and down in emotion. "Soon the waves and I found the rolling tide, soon the waves and I found the rip tide," Condon sings over a melody that'd be right at home 40 years ago.
It's the small nuances--a stomping foot, an echoing bell--that makes The Rip Tide a fun, poppy, and meticulously crafted effort worthy of repeat play.
The best part: Beirut's newest CD doesn't hit stores until August 30, but NPR is streaming the whole thing in its entirety, free of charge, right now.