Beirut (aka Zach Condon) is quite the marvel. At 20 he helped resuscitate gypsy music. Now 21, and legally allowed to get hammered and belt Grizzly Bear's "Knife" in the States, he is on the verge of reinventing classical French pop by fusing it with ukulele based indie folk. His new record, The Flying Club Cup (out October 9th on Ba Da Bing!), builds on the grandiose arrangements of last years Gulag Orkestar while trading many (but not all) of his Balkan influences for a bevy of traditional Parisian sounds. In Zach's own words:
I was listening to a lot of Jacques Brel and French chanson music-- pop songs shrouded in big, glorious, over-the-top arrangements and all this drama-- and that was in some sense unfamiliar territory to me. So I started buying new instruments and relying on things I wasn't necessarily comfortable with, like French horns and euphoniums, carrying these big, epic big brass parts that I used to do all on trumpets, and working with accordion and organ instead of all ukulele-- very much throwing myself in the world of classical pop music, I guess you could say.
Like Gulag Orkester, much of the Flying Club Cup's theme and color are derived from an old photo Condon discovered. On Gulag Orkestar it was a photo of two Russian girls on a highway beside a car (see here). This time his inspiration was a "very bizarre 1910 photo...by Leon Gimpel. It's one of the first color photos ever made, at the World's Fair, and it...shows all these ancient hot air balloons about to take off in the middle of Paris."
After a few spins I've really taken to the first two tracks (if you dont count track 00). "Nantes" and "A Sunday Smile" (the first single) are quintessential Beirut, showcasing Condon's soaring voice and uber-romanticism, with lines like "It's been a long time, long time now/Since I've seen you smile" and "All I wanted was the best for our lives my dear/And You know my wishes are sincere." Take a listen below, and be sure to check out Zach's wine-wandering tour of Paris while crooning "Knife."
Beirut- A Sunday Smile