Warning: Almost anything played directly after a Beirut song will feel frighteningly featherweight by comparison. At the tender age of 21, Zach Condon—a one-time high school dropout from Santa Fe, New Mexico—has become a fountain of consequence, consistently turning out epochal compositions musicians spend lifetimes chasing after.
Album No. 2, The Flying Club Cup, definitively proves that album No. 1, last year’s Gulag Orkestar, was no happy accident or, conspiracy theorists might suggest, buttresses the possibility that Condon has AWOL Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum locked in his basement. Like its predecessor, Beirut’s new disc harkens to olden times and far-away lands, symphonizing with strings, horns, woodwinds, accordion and vocal harmonies in exotic arrangements that feel both familiar as the wind and singular as a solar eclipse.
The first half of Flying, in particular, advances Condon’s case: the intensifying instrumentation of “Nantes,” the beckoning circus organ of “A Sunday Smile,” the gripping flugel-and-violin pairing of “Guyamas Sonora,” the lyrical melancholy of “Cliquot” (“I’ll sing of the years you will spend getting sadder and older, oh love”). The remainder can’t quite compete—a couple of tracks even sound, relatively speaking, uncomplicated—but if Condon’s whopping 18 months in the public eye have taught us anything, it’s that even his “lesser” work deserves our rapt attention.
The Flying Club Cup