The Rip Tide sounds like the natural followup to Beirut’s 2007 release The Flying Club Cup. Zach Condon took a sidestep in 2009 with the band’s March of the Zapotec EP, and his own Holland EP under the Realpeople moniker. Here we see a return to the group’s signature European folk-inflected pop.
“A Candle’s Fire” opens the album with a pump organ followed by jubilant horns. Zach Condon’s unmistakable tenor soars as always. His voice, rich and full of vibrato, can make a bad song good and a good song great. Even singing the bridge, whose melody sounds a lot like CCR’s classic “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” the man can compel.
“Santa Fe” would make a solid single, merging the light synth-pop styles from the Holland EP with Beirut’s standard sound. By the time “East Harlem” rolls around, it’s clear there’s a stronger pop surge in the music. It’s simple, it’s hooky, yet it stays true to the sound Condon established years ago. While early Beirut albums were outwardly intriguing with a fresh sound and dense arrangements, The Rip Tide plays without pretense. Its tracks slip into the listeners ears and delight them.
That’s not to say Beirut’s music lacked depth—”Nantes,” “Elephant Gun,” “Carousels” and “Postcards from Italy,” among many others, would testify to this—but a lot of the initial appeal was in the heavy dose of Balkan folk applied. The Rip Tide sounds natural, written and performed by established musicians.
There’s a certain subtlety, or a finesse, in the compositions here. Strings and horns are intricately laced throughout, almost always there, but never getting in the way of the hook.
There’s a trade-off, though, because at the same time, the album lacks songs as distinct and powerful as those mentioned above. This is a fairly gentle album, endearing and enchanting, and it’s more than fine to keep it that way. The tracks work well together—in fact, it’s the smoothest play-through in the band’s catalog thus far—and there’s no need to add the extra oomph.
Later highlights include the the title track, the closest there is to a ballad on this one, and the uptempo “Vagabond.”
The album’s release is very well placed. It’s got their most summery vibe yet, perfect for listening at the beach or out on the water. It’s hard not to listen to this and smile.
The Rip Tide is, contrary to the title, very light and airy. It’s easy for this one to just glide right by the listener. However, much like the group’s other output, it’s just as easy to throw it on again. Part of the beauty here is that the album can be listened to as actively or as passively as desired and it will be enjoyable either way.
Beirut – The Rip Tide Tracklist:
- “A Candle’s Fire”
- “Santa Fe”
- “East Harlem”
- “Payne’s Bay”
- “The Rip Tide”
- “The Peacock”
- “Port of Call”