As Zach Condon's band grows, so, it seems, does his vision. At the tender age of 22, under the moniker Beirut, Condon is touring on his second full-length, The Flying Club Cup. Continuing to use Balkan brass ensembles like Kocani Orkestar and Goran Bregovi as a primary influences, Condon also nods to French crooners like Jacques Brel and Yves Montand, leaning away from the frenzied zaniness associated with Macedonian folk music and more toward the somewhat tortured/romantic, yet sophisticated, pop of post-war France. It may not seem a likely combination, but it works perfectly.
Condon enlisted Owen Pallet (Final Fantasy)—best known for his string arrangements for Arcade Fire—and Griffin Rodriguez (A Hawk and a Hacksaw) for arrangements and production help on Club Cup. The album is draped in an intricate tapestry of strings, horns, accordions, and bouzouki (naturally, right?), but despite the number of instruments and influences, the record avoids becoming cluttered, and instead captures a quality of magic and longing that seems to go back centuries.
The closing track, carried by grandiose piano rolls, ultimately abandons lyrics for a half-yodeled chorus worthy of the waning hours of an Oktoberfest party—as if words were no longer capable or necessary in communicating a camaraderie of heartbreak.
Condon's voice is a delicate tenor wrought with an emotion beyond his years, but imbued with a youthful innocence and idealism that stems, one imagines, from a mind unhindered by the cynicism of time, infatuated instead by hopelessly romantic and artistic ideals.
The nature of youthful brilliance is fleeting and fragile. Condon has cancelled the band's summer European tour with little explanation other than a letter on their website proclaiming a need to make some changes before returning with "a new perspective" and new material, making this likely the last chance to see Beirut and Condon in their current form, and possibly at their zenith.