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INDIE POP

Beirut, 'March of the Zapotec/ Realpeople Holland'

February 16, 2009
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Ba Da Bing

ESSENTIAL "The Akara"

Beirut's Zach Condon, who turned 23 on Friday, has spent the last three years singing gypsy and French sailor songs, collected on a few jaunts across Europe, to a growing horde of adoring American hipsters. His latest, a double disc, takes Condon south of the border; the bulk of the project was recorded in the Mexican village of Teotitlan del Valle with the help of a 17-part funeral band. The rest, which is being packaged as "Realpeople Holland," was composed in Condon's bedroom and opens with a bubbly synth track called "My Night with the Prostitute From Marseille." So yes - let's get it out - there's something a little too cute going on here. Condon's self-serious delivery has always been both blessing and curse. It's given us the tortuously beautiful "Postcards From Italy," off 2006's "The Gulag Orkestar," as well as a plaintive dance track about seeing "waves" in the eyes of a French hooker. Still, "Zapotec" has a regal, brassy sort of sweep - check the martial melody "The Akara" - and the best songs on "Holland" twist and turn over a warm, buttery backbeat. Beirut's greatest feat is still one of translation - the inspiration may be worldly, but the mood remains cozily familiar. (Out tomorrow)

MATTHEW SHAER

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