11 Songs, 34 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

In 2006, Zach Condon grabbed a lot of attention when he released Gulag Orkestar, an album that mixed the blast of Balkan brass bands with the melancholy of indie rock. It was striking to hear a vocalist who recalled Stephin Merritt and Rufus Wainwright backed by imported oom-pah horn stylings. On the 2009 double-EP, March of the Zapotec & Realpeople - Holland, we see two sides of Condon’s craft. The first EP, March…, finds the New Mexico native collaborating with a different kind of brass group, the Jimenez Band, an outfit from the state of Oaxaca in Mexico; on …Holland, which is credited to Realpeople, Condon creates muted electro-pop. Despite the difference in styles, Condon’s sensibility — and singing — make the two EPs cohere. March opens with “El Zocalo,” a brief instrumental that catches the brass band in fine form, and closes up with “The Shrew,” where Mexican elements are incorporated into Beirut’s distinctive sound. Then we move into Holland’s “My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille,” where twinkly synth plays off of Condon’s yearning vocals. The longest track, “No Dice,” a perky-but-somehow-sad electronic instrumental, wraps things up.

EDITORS’ NOTES

In 2006, Zach Condon grabbed a lot of attention when he released Gulag Orkestar, an album that mixed the blast of Balkan brass bands with the melancholy of indie rock. It was striking to hear a vocalist who recalled Stephin Merritt and Rufus Wainwright backed by imported oom-pah horn stylings. On the 2009 double-EP, March of the Zapotec & Realpeople - Holland, we see two sides of Condon’s craft. The first EP, March…, finds the New Mexico native collaborating with a different kind of brass group, the Jimenez Band, an outfit from the state of Oaxaca in Mexico; on …Holland, which is credited to Realpeople, Condon creates muted electro-pop. Despite the difference in styles, Condon’s sensibility — and singing — make the two EPs cohere. March opens with “El Zocalo,” a brief instrumental that catches the brass band in fine form, and closes up with “The Shrew,” where Mexican elements are incorporated into Beirut’s distinctive sound. Then we move into Holland’s “My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille,” where twinkly synth plays off of Condon’s yearning vocals. The longest track, “No Dice,” a perky-but-somehow-sad electronic instrumental, wraps things up.

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3:34
2:10
3:53
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3:28
5:24

About Beirut

One of 2006's most unexpected indie success stories, Beirut combines a wide variety of styles, from pre-rock/pop music and Eastern European Gypsy styles to the alternately plaintive and whimsical indie folk of the Decemberists to the lo-fi, homemade psychedelic experimentation of Neutral Milk Hotel. At the heart of this sonic hybrid was a teenager from Albuquerque, New Mexico, a fact that made Beirut's debut album, Gulag Orkestar, all the more surprising. Something of a musical prodigy, multi-instrumentalist Zach Condon began making one-man D.I.Y. bedroom recordings in his early teens; while conducting interviews several years later, he claimed to have recorded an entire album of '50s-style doo wop material and a collection of electronic pop songs inspired by the Magnetic Fields. (Indeed, Condon's dolorous vocal delivery and low, somewhat shaky pitch sound directly inspired by the Fields' Stephin Merritt.) After dropping out of high school, Condon claims to have traveled through Europe at the age of 16, in the process becoming exposed to the Balkan folk and Gypsy music that's at the heart of Gulag Orkestar. Back home in Albuquerque, Condon crossed paths with fellow New Mexican Jeremy Barnes, formerly of Neutral Milk Hotel, whose own albums as A Hawk and a Hacksaw share similarly ethnographic interests with Condon's new material. With the help of Barnes and his A Hawk and a Hacksaw partner, Heather Trost, Condon recorded the songs that would make up Gulag Orkestar largely on his own, playing accordion, keyboards, saxophone, clarinet, mandolin, ukulele, horns, glockenspiel, and percussion along with Barnes' drums and Trost's cello and violin.

After Barnes gave an early version of the album to Ba Da Bing! Records label head Ben Goldberg, the newly christened band Beirut was signed to the New Jersey-based label and Condon moved from Albuquerque to Brooklyn, where he put together a floating collective of part-time bandmembers along the lines of Broken Social Scene for live performances. Following the release of Gulag Orkestar in May 2006, critical approbation quickly moved from the smallest blogs to mainstream media outlets that pegged Condon as a one-man cross between Jeff Mangum, Conor Oberst, and Sufjan Stevens. The EP Lon Gisland followed in 2007, leading up to the full-length The Flying Club Cup later that year. In 2009, Condon released the double-EP March of the Zapotec/Holland. The latter featured six electronic tracks recorded at home under the pseudonym Realpeople, while the former included six tracks recorded in Oaxaca, Mexico with the Jimenez Band, a 19-piece group from Teotitlán del Valle. 2011’s Rip Tide was recorded in Upstate New York during a cold winter, yet it still managed to retain the sunny, uplifting sound that is synonymous with the outfit. The first single, “East Harlem,” featured lush melodies that resonated with Condon's guised lyrics as well as an array of ukuleles, horns, and keys. Preceded by the infectious title cut, 2015's No No No arrived after a period of personal upheaval that saw Condon dealing with health issues and a divorce. ~ Stewart Mason

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