Despite loving only two or three songs per album, I actually am a big fan of Beirut, the solo-project -turned-band of Zach Condon, whose name I didn’t even have to look up (see I’m a fan!) Even though I’ve never loved an entire Beirut album, other than their 2007 EP Lon Gisland, if EP’s count, those two or three tracks from each record are more to me then just when you regularly only like two or three songs from a record. I first heard Beirut back in 2007, when I was at the age where I finally began branching out in musical taste of what pretty much only consisted of classic rock, Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, and Kanye West’s The College Dropout. Ya know, 12 years old, right before the teens kick in.
Zach Condon and Lon Gisland brought a whole new world of sounds to me. In what Wikipedia might try to call, “Balkan Folk,” this Sante Fe, New Mexico trumpet/horn arranging aficionado. mixed with a unique vocal style and interesting percussion layering’s is what pushed me into the world of indie rock music. So while I might not call The Flying Club Cup a fantastic album, it did have a special place in my music catalog for pushing in the direction that I am in today, besides, I would at the very least call Lon Gisland a fantastic EP, and one of my favorite EP’s from any band.
One thing I never thought I would see Beirut do however, is go digital. Sure, mostly every artist once they get successful and hasn’t touched a synthesizer or a drum machine decides to try something new, and I totally encourage artists trying new things, it’s just a shame when they try it out and it doesn’t work for them, like on March of the Zapotec. Beirut’s place in the music world just didn’t fit with that coldness of digital music, there was too much heart and emotion in his work that when only there lyrically, the digital bleeps and bloops didn’t fit in right.
Here on No No No, it doesn’t go as far as Zapotec digitally, or the original “Scenic World” from Gulag Orkestar that was masterfully re-arranged on Lon Gisland, but instead adds elements to the digital choices that keep that warm interior while some synths permeate around. The big choice was to remove those bloops and bleeps, and make a generally pop-keyboard-centric record. The piano tone, which at sometimes sounds like Condon went into the studio after Tobias Jesso Jr.’s sessions and just started recording to whatever settings and mic placements they had set up, it was ties it all together on this one.
No No No is mainly a minimalist project, with the horn flourishes filling up the rest of the arrangements and really giving it that Zach Condon-Beirut feel. My only main issue comes from the mixing of the aux. percussion, like the claps on Gibraltar, which are just crazy loud in the mix. Critique of the record comes from the 9 songs feeling like one idea, being only 29 or so minutes long, which for an LP is pretty short, or comments from Pitchfork’s Winston Cook-Wilson, such as, “sounds like a collection of exposed scaffolding’s—a record of a rehabilitative process, more a story of survival rather than a shot at reinvention.”
Which while I disagree with mainly because I believe the complete opposite, it’s also partly because it sounds so overly pretentious (everyone’s and mine’s big beef with Pitchfork most of the time). I much rather prefer his later comments that, “No No No may sound ineffectual after a cursory listen, but it reveals some subtle pleasures if you keep it in rotation.” At 29 minutes long, No No No is very susceptible to a “cursory listen,” but while there’s no hits, no breakout performance, none of that stuff that modern day pop or radio friendly exec.’s look for, No No No has a sound through all nine tracks that is just fantastic. Surprisingly enough, No No No is the first Beirut record that I’ve really enjoyed all the way through.