Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Only 19 and already a (blog) superstar, Zach Condon, a.k.a. Beirut, is one Web phenom worth the praise. His debut album, Gulag Orkestar, is a mix of Eastern European whimsy and old-fashioned indie-rock wailing. This Internet exclusive predates the material on that album, and its production is a bit ''home demo,'' but the chintzy drum-machine beat, yodel-y background vocals, and muted trumpet are charming all the same. Condon sounds well beyond his teens, as his Rufus Wainwright-type croon hints at many a bewildered hangover. Download the track for free courtesy of Beirut's site.
Rolling Stone (p.90) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Chock-full of accordion, brass noise and Condon's sinewy murmur, the album has got melancholic Easter Euro charm from here to Kiev."
Q (p.141) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A] astonishingly moving distillation of Eastern European melancholia with elegant histrionics."
Magnet (p.103) - "[W]hen 19-year-old New Mexico native Zach Condon (a.k.a. Beirut) takes accordion-led waltzes and gypsy stomps for a spin on this debut, they sound exciting rather than exhumed."
Beirut: Zach Condon.
Personnel: Zach Condon (vocals, mandolin, ukulele, accordion, trumpet, piano, organ, percussion); Heather Trost (violin); Perrin Cloutier (cello).
Additional personnel: Jeremy Barnes.
Audio Mixer: Josh Clark .
Recording information: Albuquerque, NM (2005); Seaside Lounge, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY (2005).
The debut of singer/multi-instrumentalist Zach Condon (aka Beirut), 2006's GULAG ORKESTAR marks the arrival of a precocious talent. It's a lushly arranged album that reveals Condon's unabashed adoration of Eastern European folk music, gilded with swaying accordion lines, rapturous string passages, and jangling percussion that seem wholly rooted in traditional Slavic music (see the waltz-like "Prenzlauerberg")--making its creation by a young Europhile from New Mexico that much more impressive.
While there's little in the way of pop/rock influence in Beirut's instrumental approach, Condon sings in a low warble that recalls the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt, showcasing his unrestrained flair for drama on tracks such as the tense "Brandenburg" and the swooning "Scenic World." Effectively displaying Condon's considerable abilities, GULAG ORKESTAR is a fully formed first outing that is sure to appeal to many fans of ornate and adventurous indie-pop.