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Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Forks And Knives

Unlike most everyone else out there, I wasn’t especially taken with Beirut’s 2006 debut Gulag Orkestar. I don’t have any hard, specific reasons but if pressed, I’d say that while I found the Gypsy/Balkan orchestra aesthetic novel, with a couple exceptions it seemed to be more about sound than song and anyways I am inherently prejudiced against wunderkinds, as the teenaged Zach Condon obviously was. They always remind me of how little I’ve accomplished in my life. Anyway, I gave the record a few listens and moved on.

Fast forward to this past March and their 4AD showcase at SxSW, which was a gloriously ramshackle event that gave me a glimpse of what everyone else was seeing in the band – now fully a band and not just a Zach Condon solo project. After returning home, I revisited Gulag Orkestar and while I took to it more warmly, it still didn’t make it into any sort of heavy rotation.

Skip ahead yet again to just a few weeks ago, when the folks from Le Blogotheque asked me to do a write-up for one of the videos they’d shot for each of the songs on the new Beirut record The Flying Club Cup, out today. Hosted at www.flyingclubcup.com, they shot a video, Take Away Shows-style, of Condon and cohorts performing each of the songs from the new record around Brooklyn and I was given a couple to choose from. One pass through “Forks And Knives” and I was sold. My commentary for the video is (uncharacteristically) brief but I was having so much fun watching the clip over and over again and really, it speaks for itself.

And perhaps that experience made me more favourably inclined towards the album but with it, I think I’m feeling what everyone else was over a year ago. Even though it’s still much the same recipe as Gulag, it simply sounds so much more cohesive and alive than its predecessor. I would credit much of that to the fact that Beirut is now a full and proper band rather than Condon on his own and recorded the record as such – there’s just no replacing the chemistry of musicians playing together, especially ones who’ve been forged into a cohesive unit from relentless touring. Additionally, the songwriting just seems stronger, with the orchestration now serving the song rather than the other way around, which was the impression I got from Gulag.

In short – Beirut? I get it now. And I’m giving Gulag Orkestar one more go-around.

The Los Angeles Times talks to Condon about the new album and Chart gets some insight as to Owen Pallett’s contributions while SFist chats with bandmember Jason Poranski.

MP3: Beirut – “A Sunday Smile”
MySpace: Beirut

Also from the Blogotheque – a Takeaway Show with St Vincent. Only en Francais for now (et maintenant en Anglais), but St Vincent is the universal language, n’est pas? And while you’re basking in live vids of Annie Clark, My Old Kentucky Blog has a vid of her performance at Hot Freaks in Austin a few weeks ago. There’s another Takeaway Show with Elvis Perkins, in town at the Horseshoe on November 28.

Wilco have made some more goodies available in their Roadcase – streams of their shows in Edmonton on August 18 and Berkeley, California on August 24. And note that their Austin City Limits session (which I attended last month) will be airing on PBS the week of November 3, specific day contingent on whenever your local PBS affiliate airs the show. And instead of the usual half-hour segment that most bands get on the show, Wilco will get the whole hour which means that the wonderfully botched version of “Too Far Apart” may well see the light of day! I can’t wait. And the Arcade Fire episode will air the following week, also an hour-long.

Pitchfok interviews Mr “#1 record in Sweden” Jens Lekman, whose Night Falls On Kortedala is released in North America today.

Also out today – Cease To Begin from Band Of Horses, who talk to The State about the decision to license the use of their songs in commercials. They’re at the Phoenix on November 9. And you can stream both the Horses and Lekman albums at Spinner.

Stream: Band Of Horses / Cease To Begin
Stream: Jens Lekman / Night Falls On Kortedala

Drowned In Sound talks to PJ Harvey about her new album White Chalk.

Josh Ritter discusses conquering history with Express.

Robyn Hitchcock, whose I Wanna Go Backwards box set is out October 30 November 13, will be at the Mod Club on November 14. You can stream the whole box set – five discs worth – below.

Stream: Robyn Hitchcock / I Wanna Go Backwards

And Celebration, whose The Modern Tribe is out today, will be at the El Mocambo on November 26. Check out a couple tracks.

MP3: Celebration – “Evergreen”
MP3: Celebration – “Hands Off My Gold” (SMD Remix)

And finally, all of Voxtrot’s Canadian shows – aka the ones I was giving away prizes for – have been cancelled. This obviously includes the one scheduled for tonight at the Mod Club. Singer Ramesh Srivastava had some emergency surgery in Philadelphia the other night and while he’s going to be fine, they’ve elected not to cross the border. So my contest is moot and all shows are off. Best wishes to Ramesh for a quick recovery. Update: Concerts off, but contest still on. For Montreal and Ottawa, anyways. Click on the thingie to the right for details. Or scroll down. Whichever.

By : Frank Yang at 8:18 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Zuta Ruza says:

    With Balkans music, there are people out there you should hear, from Seattle, Kulture Shock, who are really very good, and then out of Bosnia-Hercegovina, there is Mostar Sevdah Reunion, who really do wonderful stuff as well, they almost are the Bosnian answer to The Buena Vista Social Club.
    Out of London, there is the more traditional London Sevdah. All three groups have MySpace pages, and London Sevdah has it’s own Blogspot page, Each of these pages has samples of their music, so you can give it a quick listen and hear something that is the Real Deal.
    Who not to bother with?
    Don’t bother with BalkanBeatBox. They are not really BAD, but they aren’t that good. There’s too much synthesized stuff going on with them.

  2. cubilas says:

    Frank – D’you have exclusive info, cause you’re the only one I’ve found reporting that ALL Canadian dates for the Voxtrot tour are cancelled?! Specifically – Ottawa!

  3. Frank says:

    re: voxtrot – no, actually that came from the toronto promoter but voxtrot’s manager is supposed to let me know ASAP if montreal and ottawa are happening or not. was going to update when I knew.

  4. Frank says:

    okay, got confirmation – ALL Canadian dates are cancelled.

  5. cubilas says:

    Thanks for doin’ that Frank! Sad news, but thanks none the less.
    I’ll watch the hockey game instead – Go Sens.

  6. lauren says:

    Just found a cool band I thought listeners might dig- they’re called White Shoes & the Couples Company. It’s a band from Indonesia, they’re pretty cool. You can get a free MP3 at http://www.mintyfresh.com

  7. Terry Lickona says:

    I’m happy to report that "the wonderfully botched version of WILCO’s "Too Far Apart" WILL most definitely see the light of day on their Austin City Limits performance when it airs. I should know…..Terry Lickona, Producer, Austin City Limits

  8. stytzer says:

    Fully agree – the only thing Wunderkinds do is reminding you that you’re nothing but a failure. That said…The Flying Club Cup is a rather great one!