Album: The Rip Tide
Beirut is oft-praised for his seamless interweaving of world music with more indie sensibilities, and on The Rip Tide, his latest release, he does so with particularly impressive skill. There’s a beautiful depth and sensitivity to all of the tracks on this record, as the songs flow effortlessly into one another to fill your speakers with a nebulous yet memorable grace.
The first track, “A Candle’s Fire,” opens things on a seemingly sentimental note before the instruments kick in properly to give the song a warm, almost jolly punch. The thick slab of brass mixes with the drums to give it a jazzy yet strangely sweet sound. The vocals are gentle and mellifluous while hinting at much stronger feelings, and ground the song throughout as the instruments seem more ambitious in the swell towards a jubilant bridge. This is a unique and compelling opener and exceptionally well executed. “Santa Fe” introduces a slightly more contemporary sound with a synthesizer effect placed carefully beneath the vocal melodies. The drums once again bring a fun-loving aspect as the song rolls forth on a hearty bass line, building to a gorgeous final swell that neatly juxtaposes the artificial sound of the synth with the undemanding, homely feel of the other instruments.
It’s clear even from this early point in the record that in spite of the relatively simplistic feel of the songs, the enthusiasm and warmth inherent in the instruments prevents them from sounding bland or incomplete. There’s an endearingly tasteful feel to the music that’s often lacking from other records today and it convinces almost effortlessly. Such is further evident in “East Harlem’s” delicate, understated approach and the poignant air of fragility conjured by the piano in “Goshen.” The latter in particular is quite a sincere and loving track that vividly captures the hidden depths of the album.
Moving along, “Payne’s Bay” and “The Rip Tide” highlight the musical excellence on show here particularly well. “Payne’s Bay” picks up on the sweetness lingering after “Goshen” and develops it, adding a more celebratory note. The instruments stutter slowly but surely into life, building an almost raucous and adventurous tone which is all the more impressive considering the self-effacement of the vocals and overall ease of the sound. The title track then begins with a delicately luscious piano before adding some effects to heighten the atmosphere. The lyrics are minimal and the sound feels subtler, as the instrumentation is interspersed in a pensive, evocative manner.
Towards the end, the vocals take a more central role. While still of the same unassuming cadence, they cut through the piercing organ effects of “The Peacock” in a firmer manner than heretofore. This song has a more consistent sound, unlike many of the others which develop as they go along. The instruments, much like the singing, are dreamy and detached, lending it a surreal and longing character offset only by the appearance of a sentimental horn in the background. “Port of Call,” finally, is a gorgeously playful conclusion. It opens with a light twinkling sound, an acoustic guitar serenading alone until the other instruments appear halfway through. This build up is slow and unchallenged and adds dimension and nuance to the track, as an extra touch of magic in the vocals gives it depth and potency. Compared to the music elsewhere, it’s very loose but it has a distinctively worldly sense and enchants as completely as the rest of the album.
It should go without saying then that The Rip Tide is a truly beautiful piece of work. It’s so light and airy that it could slip right by you, but if you take the time to listen and focus there is much to fall in love with. It’s a soul-searcher, but without any of the faux sentimentality that usually infects introspective records and it’s all bound together with a seamless vision and creativity. Make it the soundtrack to your summer and you may never look back. Arresting and captivating.
Review written by: Grace Duffy