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Beirut - Gallipoli Music Album Reviews

Zach Condon reunites with his old Farfisa on his fifth album, but otherwise he remains cozily ensconced in his twee wheelhouse.

Beirut’s Zach Condon came up in the tender landscape of mid-aughts indie rock and has been chilling there ever since. After nearly four years freewheeling throughout both New York and Europe, he is back with Gallipoli, which is neither named after the World War I battle nor a reference to the terrible Mel Gibson movie (also about the World War I battle). On Gallipoli, Condon is still doing the same exact thing he’s been doing the past 13 years—creating roomy, Elephant 6-indebted indie pop that sounds more or less like a readymade soundtrack for a young film student trying to front as an auteur. Those who can’t get on board with Condon’s penchant for twee won’t change their minds with this album, either. However, for listeners who appreciate indie pop at its most wide-eyed, this record does just that. Gallipoli doesn’t really break any new ground, but consistency works in Condon’s favor here. Beirut’s fifth album goes down about as smoothly as vanilla soft-serve in the middle of summer. It’s perhaps a bit light on content and about 10 minutes too long, but Gallipoli ultimately is well-produced and sweet to boot.

Gallipoli can be best summed up as the Beirut album where the organ is king. The record’s backstory is extremely in line with Condon’s ethos: Basically, he had this Farfisa sitting in his parents’ house in Santa Fe. He decided he needed said organ back in his life. He obtained the organ. Around that time he started sketching out Gallipoli. What ends up bubbling to the surface is an album loaded with starry 1970s affect. These 12 songs are warm to the touch, bathed in an FM-radio glow, and stuffed to the rim with elements of indie rock at its most naive. The record feels like backwards time travel both to the heyday of Laurel Canyon psych folk and to the alt-rock days of yore where you could put a ukulele in a song and not have people roast you incessantly. These feelings converge on the album’s indulgent eponymous lead single. Its plunky organ and clear-cut horn section have the overstated elegance of the Mandarin Duck fluttering its wings in a pond. Then Condon begins waxing poetic about being “spared from the sorrow,” and “southern winds scattered clouds from the cove,” letting you know with a wink and a raised eyebrow that he is indeed a learned man.

The album’s atmospheric tracks work best. These are not terribly memorable lyrics (and Condon has even said so much himself). This is particularly apparent in “Family Curse,” which is vaguely about family dynamics but in such a way that is pretty much inconsequential. What is really interesting is embedded in the track’s texture: The seed of a vintage-sounding drum-machine loop slowly blossoms into a full-flowered orchestra. The ambient track “Corfu” is a surprising highlight. It is tinged with Balearic rhythms and includes one of Gallipoli’s most compelling uses of organ stoking. One of the shortest songs on the album, it sounds like the kind of sun-kissed psych that would be paired nicely with an activity like drinking a tallboy while someone rubs sunscreen on your back.

Sometimes Condon’s penchant for meandering dreaminess really drags. Gallipoli is largely an album of background music, and its wallpaper qualities can invoke eye rolls and boredom. On “I Giardini,” Condon sings so far in the back of his throat he sounds Muppet-like, and texturally, things are equally unsatisfying. The resonant piano and plodding percussion feel especially drawn out, far beyond the song’s pretty standard four-minute runtime. Then there’s “Landslide,” which is overwhelming in its perkiness. Pretty much entirely in a major key, the track has an essence that can be described as “hey-ho indie pop man of the highlands meets The Sound of Music,” which is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Beirut’s music will always remain rooted in the 2006 that birthed his first album. No matter what Condon releases, his discography will forever be associated with nostalgia for a more innocent era of indie rock. There’s nothing wrong with continuing to make music that pines for a cultural moment that has already passed. Condon’s constant obsession with anachronism occasionally yields lovely, even compelling results. Other times, listening to his music feels like talking to friends from high school you’ve lost touch with. There’s good stuff here, but ultimately, it’s hard to be excited about something that feels so seriously entrenched in the past.

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