My first introduction to Beirut was when a good friend slid me the album Gulag Orkestar (2006) after I complained of having too much work to catch up on. I hesitantly popped the disc in to my computer while playing catch up at three in the morning, and I listened to the entire album. It was that good. Gulag Orkestar is lovely and channels Buenos Aires, street performers, cappuccinos, markets in the park—essentially most things European that make any heart flutter. A number of songs resonated with me off of this album including their more popular tracks like “Scenic World” and “Postcards from Italy.” Later, I found on YouTube an invigorating, impromptu street performance of their track “Nantes” off of The Flying Club Cup (2007). I was their captive audience for that performance just as I am now for their newest album The Rip Tide.

After listening Beirut's latest release, The Rip Tide, I have mixed feelings about the band. The album feels much more organic than previous works. However, the Eastern European sound that I fully expected has died down drastically on this album. In fact, even though the album is as breezy as any of the band’s previous releases, it is also chock-full of somber phrases like, “This is the house where I could be unknown, be alone now” off of the title track, or, “I could only smile, I've been alone some time and all, and all, it’s been fine” from the nonchalant song “Port of Call.” This is a side of the band listeners have not heard before, and that is certainly notable.

The Rip Tide is different musically as well, drowning out the loud horns and trumpets to expose the lyrical content of the tracks. This change highlights improvements in lead vocalist Zach Condon’s songwriting, which is perhaps the most important thing listeners will take away from this album. On the other hand, I’m not really sure Condon successfully pulls it off. Despite his efforts, his lyrical songwriting seems a bit weak and sometimes repetitive. On first listen, this album had a song I immediately felt inclined to skip due to its repetitive nature, a reaction that occurs for me more than once on this album. “Payne’s Bay” is painfully monotonous, and even the songs I enjoy, such as “Vagabond,” “The Rip Tide” and the opening track “A Candle’s Fire,” do nothing to shake my feeling that this album might be missing the mark.

I fully commend Beirut for surprising listeners with a musical shift, but it’s just not my cup of tea. In fact, I miss the global influences and Eastern European quality; instead it’s sometimes like being zapped into an English ballroom. I’m not crazy about all of the tracks on this album or even the album itself. Could I do without The Rip Tide? Yes, but I believe that it deserves to be listened to. It is a brave stepping stone for this band. However, while musically the album is fine enough, if you prefer powerful songwriting then The Rip Tide will not be strong enough.

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