Beirut does very little to pull you in with The Rip Tide, the latest addition to Zach Condon's collection of worldly contemplations, nor does he need to. His reputation precedes him. Although nothing pops as immediately as the now-infamous riff from "Gulag Orkestar", and nothing seems too rooted in foreign territory like all of the March Of The Zapotec, Condon still concocts epic arrangements that breathe life into his poetic sentiments. The difference here is a subtler blend of outside influences, mixed with his early bedroom recordings, for a different equilibrium of song arcs, and more nuanced highs and lows.
Most of The Rip Tide just kind of blows by as your listening, no doubt easy consumption for the uninitiated and lazy. But a closer examination of song structure reveals Condon's continued mastery. Instead of front-loaded peaks, Condon takes his time building a web of melodic statements, to culminate into several climatic moments. "A Candle's Fire" chugs along quite pleasantly, if not forgettable, until the second motif kicks in "If I had known not to carry on that way/It wouldn't show in the creases of your face". The play on candles and flames here becomes an evident metaphor for fear of extinguishing feelings, and the entire effort gets lifted to a different level. Other songs elicit such dissection as well. "East Harlem" takes a similar turn despite being rather simple at the onset, later entering a bridge that flushes the cheeks with its beauty...the "sound of your breath in the cold", a chilling and exciting bit of lyricism in an otherwise standard Beirut tune.
Apart from those turns and their various equals throughout the record, the album feels a little safe. Condon has moved to create a matrimony of his various incarnations. Bedroom electropop, horns on the hillside, contoured lyrics, and booming downbeat bass hits all make equal and balanced appearances. But instead of it feeling like some sort of Megazord of Condon's talents, The Rip Tide's more like a laid-back potluck with a fuzzy focus. Not necessarily a bad thing, but for the formerly bombastic horns-a-blazing Beirut, it's different without really sounding so on the surface, and worth noticing.
Regardless, The Rip Tide continues to reward those who pay attention to the details (which isn't always easy beyond Condon's easy-going vocals), like the entrance of horn riffs and marching snares on "Goshen", or the second half of "Vagabond" and it's adjustment of the opening melodic line with copious harmonies. Many who yearn for the immediate thrills of Beirut's more classic tunes may be left in the dust, but those who don't mind a slow burner with many layers worth exploring (already kind of the MO of people who dig Zach Condon's work) should have no problem finding the beauty and breathlessness in the nooks of this even-tempered record. The Rip Tide, unlike its real-life counterpart, is a subtle pull, but one worth your attention.