Thursday, September 21, 2006

Band of the Week: Beirut

As far as hearsay goes, I should have tripped over an mp3 of Beirut a while back following the blog bread crumb trail to the Balkan Peninsula by way of New Mexico. Instead, over breakfast, Montclair New Jersey’s favorite daughter, my dear friend, Bridget Love gushed over a show where musics came at her from origins indescribable. To her surname, Bridget can elucidate molecular levels of swoon with a dual word prowess.

This stumbling awe was unlike her. Ok, I said, and bought the album. Gulag Orkestar unfolded images previously unrelated: A marching band up to their knees in the Coney Island surf, a girl accordionist in sock garters, a gypsy band playing while tied around a tree like paper lanterns.

With this album, Beirut frontman Zach Condon followed the smoke to the red backroom, made nice with a criminal friend from Greece playing Rebétiko as it got banned along with hash, smooched the Persian girl for her oud and found himself in France with the girl thankfully beside him sighing for the ukulele in the pawnshop window: All adventures transpiring in his bedroom in his parents’ house in Albuquerque, where he says 80 -90% of the album was made.

I used to live in a house filled with double-strung instruments and their players, wayward recording devices and plenty of old recordings from far origins. It’s a romantic place to start. (Though, Condon has already said that the next effort won’t continue the Balkan themes.)

He’s 20 now (I think) and living in Brooklyn. In October, the expanded version of Gulag Orkestar will release in part starting with the EP, Lon Gisland. Meanwhile, he’s getting his touring legs and will be in our town soon. I can’t wait.

Written by J.R. Magsaysay. (And Joe adds: Me, too. It’s the most immediately crushable album I’ve heard all year.)

Beirut will play The Troubadour on October 21st.


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