Zachary Francis Condon, the mastermind behind Beirut, is 25 years old. Three hugely diverse, relentlessly interesting and inimitably innovative albums into his still-young career, this fact is amazing, surprising and, on the whole, quite depressing.
What started as a dorm-room project at the University of New Mexico has exploded into one of the most highly-regarded indie acts in the world, a band who it’s cool to like and who it’s fun to listen to. Condon’s début record Gulag Orkestar combined the swaying waltz music of eastern Europe with Condon’s tremulous vocals and some beautifully deployed brass (Condon trained as a jazz trumpeter). His sophomore album The Flying Club Cup changed course, this time channelling French chanson and including similarly flabbergasting moments of brass-based genius. His third LP, The Rip Tide, released in August, takes elements of both and adds a sprinkling of pop veneer. All three albums have been critically lauded, and Beirut continues to draw in more and more listeners.
What makes Condon’s music so amazing is his unerring skill for composition, especially when it comes to brass. Trumpets and trombones and tubas combine for moments of orchestral beauty sewn seamlessly into the fabric of songs, and at its very best, Beirut’s music can be life-affirming.
‘Santa Fe’, one of the singles from The Rip Tide and a homage to Condon’s New Mexico hometown, is an example of Condon’s precocious songwriting talents and distinctive, effortlessly brilliant voice. Made by internet-television group Sunset Television, its video is a tragicomic exploration of love and loss, recounting the series of unfortunate events that lead our protagonist to contemplate suicide. Shot in a faded, almost sepia colour palette, and purporting to be an old ’70s B-roll, it’s clever, considered and creative, just like the music it accompanies.