Music Reviews

Beirut Hadsel

(Pompeii Records) Rating - 7/10
Finding solace in going somewhere remote is not a unique endeavor for musicians. As a result, the narrative behind it almost takes precedence over the music itself. In the case of Zach Condon, the brainchild behind Beirut, it was more of a necessity. After experiencing a series of health complications after releasing 2019's Gallipoli, Condon decided to move to a cabin in Hadsel, Norway— with equipment in hand—to recuperate and experiment. The seeds he planted there eventually took him to Berlin, where he began to shape his sixth album indefinitely due to lockdown restrictions.
Condon's method of approach may be minimal in the plainly titled Hadsel, handled independently like on his Gulag Orkestar days, but his songwriting is anything but. There's a rejuvenating quality to songs like Arctic Forest and Island Life, with swelling brass and pulsating synth tones moving as leisurely as their serene locations might suggest. While strikingly beautiful on the surface, serviced by Condon's distinct baritone, he does reckon with acceptance amidst that period of uncertainty in So Many Plans and The Tern. On the latter, he's fairly direct about the positivity he was trying to cling onto: “No, it's not too late to find where you are.”
Rather than use too many words, Condon lets the life-affirming melancholy of his arrangements speak for him. Once Regulatory ends the album with a positively grand soundscape, on which he declares, “The old lies are born again,” we can only assume there's more healing to be done. He rarely reveals much of his true intent throughout, relying upon platitudes that, while truthful, make Hadsel sound a little thin in places. But Condon knows his audience well, resorting to a heavily cinematic atmosphere that will have his listeners contemplating their own aspirations rather than focusing on his. Just like he intended to do.