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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Beirut
Gulag Orkestar
Ba Da Bing!

Rating: 9/10 ?


May 16, 2006
Internet hype can be a dangerous thing. After hearing about those damn Arctic Monkeys for so long, once I finally got a chance to listen to them I was extremely disappointed. I have learned that I have to search out the new stuff the second I hear about it, in order to forge my own opinion. If I'm late on the bandwagon for most hyped music out there, 9 times out of 10 I will hate it simply because of the letdown factor.

After reading about Beirut for a few weeks, I kind of stumbled upon listening to them. When I put two and two together and realized I was listening to 19-year old wunderkind Zach Condon and his band I immediately searched around the web for more of his music. One thing is for sure - in the case of Beruit there is good reason behind the hype.

Seemingly, with a mission of creating a full album without a guitar, Beirut has laid one of the most compelling soundtracks in indie rock this year. Amazing story-telling lyrics are backed by creative structures and instruments that give the entire album a once-in-a-lifetime feel; it is a series of strange combinations of sounds that give Gulag Orkestar its legs. It is beautiful and haunting while keeping a strong foundation in creative pop.

After researching the artist I discovered that a young Condon had dropped out of school to learn about life in the great and wide-open spaces of old Europe. While there he met a Serbian artist with a penchant for listening to Balkan Gypsy music all night long. This fellow made quite an impact on the (at the time) 16 year old Condon, who in turn began to pour himself into the writing of this beautiful masterpiece.

Having come across this information on the web, I am of course unable to verify its validity, but the one thing I can say is that the sounds encapsulated within this album lead me to believe that the back story is all factual. After all, such an interesting album could only be created from a story involving high school dropouts and Balkan Gypsies, right? This Renaissance man that is Zach Condon could never have created an album like this sitting alone in some basement apartment somewhere in New York... or could he?

From the opening notes of Gulag Orkestar to the beautiful finale of "After The Curtain," Condon's music takes the listener on a trip around the guitarless indie-world of orchestral pop, on camelback, running into sounds from all around this world, but with a concentration on Eastern Europe circa the 1700's. There are plenty of mandolin-style stringed instruments and the classic sound of trumpets littered throughout the album, which serve to give it a grand, Old World feel.

While much focus will be placed on Gulag Orkestar's non-traditional instrumentation (and rightly so), one of the most surprisingly pleasant elements of the entire project Condon's voice. At nineteen years young, this crooner has the smoothness of Morrissey mixed with the deep drawl of Ladybug Transistor frontman Gary Olson. Though he may not have the experience in years, he more than makes up for it in the way he crafts his songs.

Reviewed by Bob Ladewig
Having been introduced to good music by his sister in the early years, Bob Ladewig has been searching out all the best in indie music ever since. He also rides a skateboard and performs/directs comedy shows and, like all great men, he\'s afraid of really growing up.

See other reviews by Bob Ladewig

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