And The Most Alluring Album Of 2011 Is…
Beirut: The Rip Tide
The Principles Of Perfectly Pitched Pop; as enigmatic reads go, this one is right up there. It’s not a book you can pick up in a store. The staff in your local library will offer you a blank stare should you be asking for it. Several commentators have dismissed its existence as some kind of elaborate hoax or urban myth, and whilst no-one has come forward to substantiate those doubts, neither has anyone arrived to disprove them.
Instead, it’s a clandestine affair, the few copies that are rumoured to exist circulated surreptitiously, hand to hand. Serge Gainsbourg is reckoned to have once owned a copy. Phil Spector swapped his for a fright wig and some guns. Brian Wilson used to flick through the pages from the sanctuary of the sandpit he installed in his living room, whilst more recently, those suggested to have assimilated its wisdom include Jane Wiedlin, Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside, André 3000’s tailor.
I’ve no actual proof for claiming that Zach Condon – the driving force behind New Mexico’s Beirut – was passed a copy of The Principles Of Perfectly Pitched Pop in the dead of night a year or two back, but judging by the unadulterated seduction embedded throughout Beirut’s third album, I’m reckoning that I’m on pretty secure ground.
The Rip Tide is a revelation. A great pop record, defined by tracks that shimmer and sparkle. There’s a heady seam of confidence to all this. It takes balls to pitch the brass arrangements so centrally; in less capable hands, the trumpet in particular can swamp a song’s momentum, can weigh down the overall effect. Here, the mariachi brass sections frame each song, not only complimenting the strength of the songwriting and the clever, understated pump organ inflexions, but enhancing the whole, helping to create the record’s very visual feel. The listener gets a real sense of vista with this; never mind that this was written in an upstate New York winter; these songs – even lead single and geographical reference point ‘East Harlem’ – carry an unmissable New Mexico flavour. Think landscape, think horizon, an album with a strong sense of home; not the inherent conservatism of there’s no place like… but a wry, warm, knowing proclamation of identity.
You know that you’ve a great album in your midst when there’s no stand-out track, the tracklist instead flowing with enticement until the final chord that always feels like it’s arrived too soon. The instrumentation is finely balanced, taking hints from quirky unorthodoxy but never entirely giving way to inaccessibility. Zach Condon’s lush baritone sits perfectly in the mix, never dominating, always alluring. I like this album a great deal. My face likes this album a great deal, such is the frequency that The Rip Tide triggers broad smiles. A record that never overplays its hand or overstays its welcome, but simply glitters.
Beirut / East Harlem
Beirut / Santa Fe
LGM’s Albums Of The Year are:
Beirut: The Rip Tide
Blanck Mass: Blanck Mass
Cornershop: Cornershop And The Double ‘O’ Groove Of
Dutch Uncles: Cadenza
Luke Haines: 9½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling…
I Break Horses: Hearts
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins: Diamond Mine
Lanterns On The Lake: Gracious Tide, Take Me Home
Tarwater: Inside The Ships
Zwischenwelt: Paranormale Aktivitat