Welcome to “Lon Gisland,” home to tinkling chimes, shuddering accordions and romantic violins. You look confused. Oh! You thought I meant Long Island. Well, that’s where you’d be mistaken, silly thing, because today we are caught within the wild imagination of Zach Condon, a.k.a. Beirut, and transported to a world where the Balkans rock, folk rolls and Long Island is, well, cool.
As he proved on last year’s “Gulag Orkestar,” Condon is a master of seamlessly swirling his honeyed tenor with the orchestral strains of violins and trumpets. After failing to satisfy his creative appetites in college, Condon roamed Eastern Europe and immediately became enchanted by the music of the Balkans. Since then, he has incorporated all the melancholy and revelry of traditional Eastern-European forms into his own breed of triumphant rock.
But the new EP is not just “Gulag” take two, as Condon shows off a newfound sophistication in lyrical composition and instrumentation. On his first release, he jumped at his “new” sound without fleshing out all the subtleties of Eastern European music’s meaty crevices. He presented a disorganized polyglot hodge-podge — a band name referring to a country in the Middle East, songs named after cities in Germany with the brassy Balkans woven throughout. “Lon Gisland” is different — his influences, while still present, take a back seat; Condon’s mellifluous and effervescent voice is now the dominant force.
This is best seen on “Scenic World,” a track from “Gulag Orkestar” that Condon edited before he included it on his new release. The song worked the first time around by dripping Condon’s voice plaintively over a fusion of urgent keyboard riffs and more meditative accordion vibrations, but on the EP, the song is weightier. While his debut seemed beaten down by horns, a delicate trumpet now flows throughout his wistful cries. His tone is rich and mellow and dark as he sings of a “scenic world where the sunsets are all breathtaking.”
Maybe this newfound focus can be attributed to Condon’s theme: Instead of writing from a visitor’s perspective, glimpsing a foreign land as an outsider, he now focuses on a place much closer to home. Sort of. A native of Albuquerque, N.M., the 20-year-old Condon moved to Brooklyn a little over a year ago, but that’s apparently all the time he needs to compose his ode to New York’s suburban pinky finger.
Condon’s two instrumental numbers, evenly spaced among the album’s five tracks, provide a welcomed break from Condon’s occasionally mediocre lyrics and prevent the EP from treading near repetition. The rollicking “My Family’s Role in the World Revolution” pairs celebratory horns with a bouncing, carefree piano; it is Condon’s take on jamming. “Lond Island Sound,” on the other hand, opts for the melancholic as its steady accordion cautiously rocks between exultation and anguish.
“Lon Gisland” is brief, even for an EP, clocking in at just over 16 minutes, yet it’s an eloquent expression of how easily Condon modernizes a traditional aesthetic. His release is a little something to whet our collective appetite as we await his fall full-length.