By Jarrett Edmund, September 17 2015 —
Zach Condon’s sound is eclectic, even by indie standards. His first album as Beirut was heavily influenced by traditional Eastern European music, featuring elaborate horn sections and rambling, wordless vocals. Despite the increasing complexity of his arrangements in years since, Condon’s quivering vibrato and emotional resonance continue to ground his music.
There hasn’t been a new Beirut album in four years, as Condon scrapped whole LPs of music while struggling to find inspiration amidst personal crises. His new album, No No No, marks his surprisingly upbeat return.
The shortest album in Beirut’s discography, No No No is hit and miss. Album opener “Gibraltar” swoops in with infectious optimism, and Condon’s emotional tone never falters. The title track is a typical love-at-first-sight romantic adventure, while “At Once” represents a rare moment of melancholy in an album filled with positivity.
Mid-album tracks bounce between hypnotism and boredom. “As Needed” slots in ironically as a needless instrumental. Condon displays a restrained wanderlust on “Perth,” which is the musical embodiment of a humdrum walk around the beach.
There are some shimmering moments throughout the record, though. “Pacheco” is great for drunken late-night walks home, and the tempo change in “Fener” is expertly crafted and immensely satisfying.
But these are only moments, and the album wraps up too quickly. The passion that drove Beirut’s previous work is noticeably muted, and one has to wonder if the albums he scrapped during his emotional turmoil would have been more
worthwhile than No No No.
For those unfamiliar with Beirut, his latest album is a safe bet. The scaled down horn sections are radio-friendly, accessible and pleasant. But the emotional resonance is only knee-deep and No No No feels shallow in comparison to Condon’s earlier work. This may have been Condon’s intention, but for long-time fans expecting to lose themselves in Beirut’s familiar sound, the new album may be a resounding “No No No.”