[CD Review] Beirut, 'March of the Zapotec/Holland' (Ba Da Bing)

Any Beirut fan can guess what half of Zach Condon’s new release sounds like: lilting vocals atop gypsy-ish whirls of accordion, percussion and marching-band horns. The other half, however, may come as a left-field shocker to those unaware of Condon’s pre-Beirut project, Realpeople. That’s because this follow-up to 2007’s The Flying Club Cup isn’t an album, but rather a pair of EPs: the familiar March of the Zapotec attributed to Beirut and the squishy, electronic Holland to Realpeople.

It’s not as kooky a juxtaposition as one might think. Despite the icy synths and pulsing beats Condon employs for Realpeople, his vocals remain a constant, his lyrics still fixated on Europe. The Beirut tunes bear whiffs of traditional Eastern European music but were actually recorded in Oaxaca, Mexico, with a 19-piece band. Despite the former being laid to tape solo in a bedroom and the latter ballooning into an international collaboration, the two EPs fit just fine on the shelf together.

If anything, the resuscitation of Realpeople allows Condon to kick away the crutch of so much brass presence and those Balkan leanings—the accordion-flecked songs on March of the Zapotec aren’t always easy to differentiate from one another—and just focus on his songwriting. “My Night With the Prostitute From Marseille” is suavely romantic and simply pleasing, while closing instrumental “No Dice” is genuinely danceable. It doesn’t all work, though; the throwaway “My Wife, Lost in the Wild” gets swept up in needless effects and Condon’s overly affected singing.

All of this oscillating between Condon’s two pet modes makes for an interesting genre exercise, but in the end, only serious Beirut junkies need apply.

 
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