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What I’m listening to this week: Beirut

June 26, 2009

The Flying Club Cup – 2007

Beirut is the brainchild of Zach Condon, a musical prodigy who released his second album, The Flying Club Cup, at just 21 years old.  The album, an elaborate, exquisite composition of Eastern European-inspired music which expanded upon his first album Gulag Orkestar, would be an accomplishment for any musician, but Condon’s age, melodic skills, and multi-instrumental ability make The Flying Club Cup truly extraordinary.

The influences are plentiful throughout the album, everything from gypsy folk music to indie pop, and those influences are blended into complex arrangements with plentiful horns, strings, accordions, and piano throughout.  The Flying Club Cup, starting with “Nantes”, is at once baroque, intriguing, romantic and theatrical.  Condon’s voice is compelling and worldly, particularly on “A Sunday Smile”, a track with vaguely morose lyrics, but a captivatingly hopeful circular melody.

Indeed, much of The Flying Club Cup plays out that way; it’s nostalgic in the best possible ways, enchanting and yearning, and paired with the dramatic and intense flair of traditional ethnic folk groups.  “Cliquot” starts out with the lyrics: “A plague in the workhouse/A plague on the poor/Now I’ll beat on my drum ’til I’m dead”, but the track is punctuated by a sweet violin and duet vocals that it make it seem almost jovial and celebratory.  The same goes for “Forks And Knives (Le Fete)”; the songwriting is totally contrary to the festive horns, plucked violin, and cymbals.  “Un Dernier Verre (Pour La Route)” is where the music seems the most ominous, and “Cherbourg” and “St. Apollonia” the most sad, with Condon’s vocals pleading, impassioned and eloquent well beyond his years.

The Flying Club Cup is a remarkable album, but it’s no novelty.  You can’t fake this kind of talent and there’s no denying it’s place among the best albums released in 2007.  It’s accomplished and finely done, and the fact that it was recorded in large by a 21 year old makes it all the more jaw-dropping.

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