This album is so damn charming that it's easy to overlook its wit, sophistication and sheer musicality. Like Sufjan Stevens, Rufus Wainwright and Ray Davies, Beirut mastermind Zach Condon has an unashamedly white Anglo voice, one that's both collegial and collegiate, yearning and self-sufficient, the voice of a man who would bum a smoke and then buy you a drink. Like its predecessor, Gulag Orkestar, The Flying Club Cup is filled with a gorgeous oom-pah sound, effectively imagining a past that exists only in black & white films and picture postcards from forgotten seaside resorts.
Where Gulag Orkestar could have been set in Budapest circa 1910, The Flying Club Cup exists in the banlieues of Paris between the wars, smoky and sun-dappled as only the past can be. Condon still leans on an acoustic sound that's part cabaret, part dormitory in its gentle inclusiveness — it's all accordions, ukuleles and staggered choruses, replete with whatever horn players could be rounded up. "A Sunday Smile," "Forks and Knives" and "Nantes" are standouts, but the album feels very much a whole, the songs weaving in and out of each other in a lovely dance of hopeful melancholy.
Like Gulag Orkestar, the new album appears to have been recorded in someone's bedroom between naps. This time, though, the bed, the room and the dreams seem to have grown larger. The closets are filled with dark-eyed violinists and trembling lost loves. Same thing? Very likely.