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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Illegal Leak of the Week: Beirut, The Flying Club Cup

posted by on August 28 at 11:31 AM

Since Bumbershoot has invited two takes on modern Gypsy pop to Seattle this Saturday, get in the mood. Adorn yourself with some scarves, a kidnapped baby and an iPod loaded with The Flying Club Cup, the latest leaked long-player from Beirut. While the semi-revolving group has only one consistent member, Santa Fe troubadour Zach Condon, this sophomore LP reaffirms the group’s boisterous mix of Eastern Bloc strings and horns and French-pop mandolin and accordion, all still anchored by Condon’s fall-in-love-with-me vocals. What’s changed, then, aren’t the waltzes or the horn-filled instrumental choruses, but rather the tone—last year’s funeral dirges of Gulag Orkestrar have given way to this Cup’s wedding celebrations.

With the general brightening of tone, it’s hard not to notice a few similarities to Sufjan Stevens, from the obvious (“In The Mausoleum” just about steals its piano intro from “Come On Feel The Illinoise”) to the subtle (the swell of strings in “Forks and Knives”’ is as much Sufjan as it is French New Wave cinema). But sadness has its place here too, particularly on standout track “Cherbourg,” which opens with an accordion-backed mourning—“A fall from you is a long way down”—and surges with a chorus of harmony vocal moans, spoon-clinking percussion and Condon’s unmistakable cry—“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you smile!” This track, more than any other, trades the group’s Balkan scarves in for a beret, a fashion choice that I’m perfectly okay with.

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