Beirut: New/Old Song, “East Harlem”
Geography buff Zach Condon will be back with a new Beirut long-player this summer. The Rip Tide will be delivered via Condon’s wholly-owned label Pompeii, with distribution from Revolver USA. Over two previous LPs and several EPs, Condon has displayed a preternatural ability to infuse various world music influences – namely Eastern European folk and French chanson – into his own idiosyncratic songwriting. Beirut’s breakthrough, 2006’s Gulag Orkestar (perhaps still his best for its lo-fi charm), made Condon an indie star. It must have all happened quite quickly for the Santa Fe bedroom recordist, for he was briefly hospitalized for exhaustion coming off a European tour at the end of 2006, and subsequently canceled tour dates. Condon was back before long though, with several EPs and his second LP, The Flying Club Cup in 2007.
Like other precocious songwriters – John McCauley from Deer Tick comes to mind – Condon had years of teenage songwriting material to pull from, and some of 2007’s record release activity consisted of recordings that actually pre-dated Gulag. So it comes as little surprise that Condon is again drawing from this more innocent and fertile period – a time before exhausting European tours, life of the road, and press interviews – for the first single from The Rip Tide. “East Harlem,” which comes out on 7” vinyl backed with “Goshen” (yet another place name song title for the Beirut lexicon) on June 14, is a uke strummer with Condon’s supple, romantic voice ringing throughout. Introducing “East Harlem” during a performance in 2009, Condon said, “This is a new song ‘slash’ really, really old song because I think I wrote this when I was 17… It’s fun to play it again.” It’s fun to hear Beirut open up the time capsule on Condon’s teenage songwriting years again.