Beirut – Postcards from Italy

Everybody, besides me, seems to hate this song. I don’t see why, but whenever I play it in the car, over speakers in the house–wherever–it is met with roaring objections.

It’s an acquired taste? Maybe. I don’t think it really is. The muted horns coupled with ukelele (please correct me if they’re playing some other variety of strummable instrument, as I know Beirut is fond of employing obscure instruments e.g. the flugelhorn in their music–a douchey hipster’s idyllic wet dream) is a pairing about as soothing as tea and honey, if not more so.

What I find to be my favorite–and what I think is the least favorite–aspect of the band’s sound are the vocals of frontman Zach Condon. He sounds a bit like a lone Gregorian monk attempting falsetto, incapable of reaching the high notes and ending up in a conversational register which he drags out and sort of trills sometimes, but not really. I love it. I can sing along and I feel like I sound exactly the same as he does. It’s great. And the effort of pushing and projecting my voice for the same drawn out lengths as he does leaves me vocally taxed by the end of the song’s four minutes and seventeen seconds. Condon’s voice itself is a lot like the muted horns that fill in his silences. Wavering, yet not. Drawn out, yet varied. Up and down the scale he wanders, lingering on the notes that sound best, using the rest as steps to connect him to where he wants to go. Means to an end which are presented to the listener as a wavering and fuzzy-edged shadow of vibrato.

Enough about Condon’s voice. When I write about music, I write about how it makes me feel. “Super Bon Bon” is a walk-out song. “Forget Me Not” is the essence of heartbreak, fading from memory. “Postcards from Italy” is a song for those preparing to leave things behind. There is an undertow of sorrow, pulling us to the ocean floor and dragging us out, away from where we are. Until around two minutes, when Condon’s siren song carries us back to the top and gives us air. We have been dragged away from where we were, but we’re now embarking towards somewhere new. The horns grow more forceful, their mutes less present. They ascend in triumph, as we have ascended from the ocean’s cold and sandy floor. We are off, heading auspiciously to somewhere new. As Condon steps away from the microphone, elements of the song are cut out until only the lone ukelele remains, strumming more lightly, more lightly as we look over our shoulder. As we look back at what’s to be left behind. We are off to somewhere new.

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