On his second release since 2006’s Gulag Orkestar, Zach Condon — under the moniker of Beirut — demonstrates just how much he has matured in the five years since, in both his songwriting and his lyricism. The Rip Tide is certainly a far more sophisticated and polished album than Orkestar, but in the end struggles to remain true to the simplistic style established by both of its predecessors.

These albums — Gulag Orkestar and The Flying Club Cup (2007) — were met with almost universal acclaim from critics. In addition, both drew heavily from Condon’s own penchant for foreign music, most notably that of Mexico, France and the Balkans. Throughout much of his work, Condon has explored each of these genres to some degree or another. Now, Condon chooses to eschew these musical influences in lieu of a more pop-oriented and accessible album, albeit one still ripe with the melancholia characteristic of such past singles as “The Flying Club Cup” and “Transatlantique.”

Many of the songs on The Rip Tide are not classical Beirut, losing much of the artist’s quintessential charm. “Santa Fe” is probably the album’s biggest offender. Embracing electro-pop over Condon’s trademark indie instrumentals, this is arguably Condon at his most radio-friendly sans the melodic instrumentation to which we have grown so accustomed from such songs as “Elephant Gun” and “My Family’s Role in the World Revolution.” Both of the aforementioned songs came from Condon’s LonGisland EP (2007), which was lauded by critics, as was Condon’s decision to play with a full band. Here, Beirut was arguably at its best; the band was able to provide enough gusto to Condon’s soft, melodic voice to produce a combination which today is identifiable as the essence of Beirut.

Though The Rip Tide still contains all of the horns and string fanfare that are characteristics of Beirut’s previous efforts, they are still too few and far between, and the departure from Condon’s previous work feels too sudden and unwelcome. Granted, there still remain a few gems reminiscent of albums past, such as “A Candle’s Fire,” the albums opener, featuring a gruff, matured Condon and a gutsy brass band and “Goshen,” which appears about halfway through the album as a brief and welcome respite.

Although the album is Condon’s most accessible to date, it still suffers from his decision to stray so far from what has made him so successful and that which has made his music so recognizable. That said,The Rip Tide was a bold effort and one that will hopefully develop and mature in later albums.

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