Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Alternative Rock, Folk, Pop, Rock
While it may sound like an entire Balkan gypsy orchestra playing modern songs as mournful ballads and upbeat marches, Beirut's first album, Gulag Orkestar, is largely the work of one 19-year-old Albuquerque native, Zach Co... more »
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While it may sound like an entire Balkan gypsy orchestra playing modern songs as mournful ballads and upbeat marches, Beirut's first album, Gulag Orkestar, is largely the work of one 19-year-old Albuquerque native, Zach Condon, with assistance by Jeremy Barnes (Neutral Milk Hotel, A Hawk and a Hacksaw) and Heather Trost (A Hawk and a Hacksaw). Horns, violins, cellos, ukuleles, mandolins, glockenspiels, drums, tambourines, congas, organs, pianos, clarinets and accordions (no guitars on this album!) all build and break the melodies under Condon's deep-voiced crooner vocals, swaying to the Eastern European beats like a drunken 12-member ensemble that has fallen in love with The Magnetic Fields, Talking Heads and Neutral Milk Hotel.
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An amazing debut album
somethingexcellent | Lincoln, NE United States | 05/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Largely the work of an ambitious youngster named Zach Condon, Gulag Orkestar is an indie rock album filtered through the mind of a teenager who dropped out of high school to travel across Europe and soak in as much culture and music as possible. The result is something that sounds a bit like the Microphones crossed with Neutral Milk Hotel. It might be the only rock album you hear that doesn't contain any guitars, and it conveys an emotional and worldly power of the likes I've not heard in some time.
Largely inspired by Balkan folk music, the album moves through mournful ballads and more upbeat tracks (that sound more like the work of a 10-plus member ensemble) with ease, layering horns, stringed instruments, ukeleles, mandolins, glockenspiel, drum, organs, piano, and other percussion under the soulful vocals of Condon himself, who has a similar range and style as Andrew Bird. The disc opens with the album-titled track of "The Gulag Orkestar," and after some warbling horns and cascading piano, the track turns into a shuffling march that finds Condon soaring over the top of it all with his rich croon.
The album really hits stride with the gorgeous "Bandenburg," which finds deft mandolins playing out over heaving drums and percussion as accordions wheeze and the track builds gracefully with delightful horn sections and layered vocals. "Postcards From Italy" follows, and it may very well be the best track on the disc, moving along with a playful opening section that mixes shuffling mandolin, piano and horns before shifting halfway through to a more delicate (and reflective) section that completely tugs at the heartstrings before bursting into a celebratory ending that's absolutely stunning.
The second half of the album finds Condon taking a few more chances, and amazingly he pulls things off just about every time. "Scenic World" uses a programmed casio-beat that sounds straight out of Magnetic Fields, but layers horns and accordion over the top for something completely unique while "After The Curtain" takes the non-traditional instrumentation and runs it through some filters, giving the track a slight electronic tinge without making it ever feel out of place. It seems like every year there's an album that comes completely out of nowhere and really stuns me, and this year that title is easily held by Beirut with Gulag Orkestar. An outstanding debut album, and easily one of my favorite releases of the year so far.
(from almost cool music reviews)"
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 06/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"To be honest, when I think of Elephant 6 bands I don't usually think of Balkan folk music. But with the release of Beirut's "Gulag Orkestar," I may have to revise my thinking.
This new band consists of teenage musician Zach Condon, along with people from Neutral Milk Hotel and A Hawk and a Hacksaw, making bittersweet folkpop and danceable marches. Imagine a band of slightly drunk gypsies on parade, and you'll have the general idea of how it sounds.
It opens slow, with a gentle piano and blaring horns. The title track meanders in circles and finally dies away... only to be reborn as a swaying march. Halfway through, Condon joins in with some mournful wails and equally mournful singing. That turns around in "Prenzluerberg," where the singing is just as melancholy, but the music is a cheerier march.
From there on, the trio tries out those styles and everything in between -- rattly folk with tambourines and horns, danceable folkpop, and tinkly klezmer music. Yes, tinkly klezmer. They get downright happy in "Scenic World," a colorful glockenspiel song that is just barely grounded by some quick violins.
After that, "Gulah Orkestar" is pretty upbeat, with a string of swaying marches and upbeat folk acoustics. The album's finale is a bit of a head-scratcher, though. "After the Curtain" is a relatively bare-bones song with Condon singing over applause and a dancing glockenspiel. I don't know how to fit that one in.
Basically this album is what happens when an American teenager drops out and crosses Eastern Europe, soaking up the folk music as he goes.
And it's a good thing Condon's musical talents are being backed by experienced musicians, so we can get a bittersweet, atmospheric taste of whatever he heard there. The main problem is that the less folky songs don't really fit in -- without them, the album would have been a lot better. But as it is, it's a remarkable achievement.
Condon has a pretty deep voice for someone so young, and he fills it with the longing and beauty that traditional singing often has. And he's assisted by some very talented musicians: Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost, both of whom work in the psych-folk band A Hawk and a Hacksaw. So of course, they have a good ear for this sort of thing.
So how do they manage? Soundwise, it's like someone took the gypsy out of Gogol Bordello and slapped it on Neutral Milk Hotel. The songs are brimming with violins, horns, accordion, mandolin, pianos, ukeleles, glockenspiel and many others. These instruments are so smoothly blended that it sounds like at least a dozen people are playing at any one time, and that they've played this music their whole lives.
"Gulag Orkestar" is a pretty, heart-tugging album that will make you think of quaint European villages in the springtime. Definitely worth listening to, many times."
An amazing debut album!
Manny Hernandez | Bay Area, CA | 04/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Finding out about Beirut was one of the best things to happen to me (musically) in 2007. When I first heard their EP "Lon Gisland", I quickly proceeded to dig back in the past works by this fascinating act.
Beirut blends a lo-fi sound not unlike a group of East European gipsies with a folk feel like Sufjan Stevens with leader Zach Condon's voice coming across much like David Byrne. The result is an exquisite and upbeat album that makes your heart pound with excitement making you want to jump, clap and laugh, with "Postcards From Italy" being one of the highlights.
Thinking that this was Beirut's debut album just blows me away. If you like it, by all means pick up "Lon Gisland"."