Beirut are a band that have always maintained a certain elegance. The unique concoction of experimental indie folk and contorted world music demonstrated on their last two records in particular has elevated them to something of a benchmark in the contemporary folk genre. Although their latest offering No No No does, in many ways, continue this exotic, cerebral journey, it feels like Zach Condon & co have left it a bit light this time around in favour of creating a more buoyant, pop-centric record.
As you would expect from a Beirut album, the composition is smooth while the arrangements are carried out with the usual pleasant subtlety. The carefree melody and energetically rhythmic percussion on ‘Gibraltar’ – surely one of the standout opening tracks on any album this year – together with the lazy elegance and soaring refrain of horns on ‘No No No’ show a sway towards the mainstream, and hence a change of direction for the band.
The problem is these new melodic patterns tend to overlap and repeat themselves, and while the album does return to vintage Beirut with ‘August Holland’ and the heavenly ‘As Needed’, it just doesn’t portray the same level of depth as its predecessors The Rip Tide and March of the Zapotec.
At a little over 29 minutes it feels painfully light, and bar a few experimental rhythms and switch-overs, there’s not much in terms of stylistic progression. It’s a shame as there’s some splendid material on No No No, unfortunately the pool just isn’t deep enough.