Beirut: “East Harlem”
For his latest album as the frontman for Beirut, Zach Condon drew inspiration from writer Roberto Bolaño, poet E.E. Cummings, and oddly enough, Pro Tools. Condon uses the audio recording and editing software to build his songs one idea at a time, often naming the demos after cities so that they’re easily remembered. Such is the case with “East Harlem,” the standout track from Beirut’s third album, The Riptide.
Despite the modern recording techniques, Beirut’s music sounds beamed in from another century thanks to Condon’s particular background. At age 17, he left his native Santa Fe to travel Europe with his cousin. There he discovered Balkan folk music and never looked back.
Beirut’s 2006 debut, Gulag Orkestar, included these Balkan influences along with Condon’s ear for pop melody. Each subsequent release has found the band tackling other global folk sounds, from France, Mexico, and everything in between. The Riptide looks to combine all this into a cohesive whole, and “East Harlem” is where the band succeeds. It sounds both old and new, melancholy and chipper, as only Beirut could make it sound.