Here’s something a little bit personal about me. One of my best friend’s parents are old-world Italian and I love the whole family. If I could describe the particular feeling of happy I get when over for BBQs or Christmas dinners with the family and friends, it would sound like beirut. So when I go to work on Thursday, I’m going to order The Gulag Orkestra, their 2006 release from Ba Da Bing! Records.
Going around some of the bigger music blogs right now for good reasons, this album is ’11 songs of joy, love, heartbreak, Germany, Poland, Italy, Slovakia, America!’ The sound is very much evocative of New York in the 1940s and informed by the streets of their native Brooklyn, where the sons of immigrants were fighting against fascism in Europe, Africa, Asia and hoped never to see its shadow rising on their new home shores.
The nod to WWII (and my somewhat romanticized impressions about it) are clear in the fusion of traditional ethnic music in a framework of folk/polka kinda sounds that also encapsulate a South American feel. They’re also really apparent as well with the track listing, even if it wasn’t not-so-implicitly suggested by the the album writeup on their MySpace blog. And you all know how I feel about clever track listings.
1. The Gulag Orkestra
4. Postcards from Italy
5. Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)
6. Rhineland (Heartland)
7. Scenic World
9. The Bunker
10. The Canals of our City
11. After the Curtain
Because of the involvement of Jeremy Barnes, I’ve seen some comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel and while I guess there is some, that’s not a very good comparison at all. Though I do think fans of NMH will like beirut – as will fans of Federico Aubele, The Gotan Project. But while it sounds like a ton of people playing, beirut is largely the work of Albuquerque native, Zach Condon. I can’t believe a 19 year old is making music this fantastic, it makes me so jealous! Listening to this music makes me want to run away to Eastern Europe and travels with gypsies, singing and dancing my nights away.
Check them out at their MySpace home at beruit or their website beirut band (dot) com. They’ll be playing a couple of shows in NYC over the next couple of months. If you’re lucky enough to be in the city – or know people who are – you should check them out.