Courtesy of 4AD
Courtesy of 4AD

There’s something very appealing about the European gypsy aesthetic that Beirut seems to portray. Their last albums, such as “The Riptide” and “The Flying Club Cup,” captured this aesthetic and perfected it, making the sound synonymous with their name. However, “No No No” tries to move away from that aesthetic with a more barebones approach rather than the previous feeling of a circus-sized gypsy troupe playing behind them. Although this new sound is refreshing for some, fans of Beirut expecting that familiar street performer vibe may be disappointed with this new album.

The album’s introductory song, “Gibraltar,” kick starts the album on a very high note with a catchy bongo drumline leading the song underneath the soothing vocals of Condon as well as an accompanying piano. Listening to this song makes you feel as though you are driving along the coast of the Mediterranean, beautifully capturing the carefree feelings of a summer trip. This feeling continues into the next song with the title song “No No No.” This track feels more developed than the last, building upon the same feelings that were present in “Gibraltar.” This is one of the few songs on the album that channels the old Beirut aesthetic. It feels as though he’s intimately playing in the streets with a large group of friends who just came together spontaneously and decided to just, well, play for the love of the music.

One of the problems on this album is that, compared to his previous work, the songwriting is very barebones. It feels as if within the couple weeks that they made this album, everything wasn’t fleshed out. It’s a shame because Beirut has such a beautiful voice, reminiscent of crooners from the ‘40s. “August Holland” and “Perth” both exhibit this lacking quality of Condon’s vocals. They’re both good songs with soothing instrumentals but it feels as though this album is more focused on the band rather than Condon’s voice. One of the songs, “As Needed,” is a beautiful instrumental reminiscent of a Truffaut film, but it’s still lacking that extra touch of vocals that Beirut has become famous for.

As aforementioned, “No No No” is said to have been composed entirely within a span of a couple of weeks, and that really shows as the album clocks in at a mere 29 minutes. The band’s frontman Condon has been recovering from a recent divorce as well as exhaustion from his last tour, and as a result it feels like a part of him has been lost. The album doesn’t hold a magical sense of a grandiose band playing with and supporting him. Everything seems to have been reeled in a bit, trying to create a more intimate feeling. However this seems to have had the opposite effect. Don’t get me wrong, there are many great songs on this record that will get even the most depressed listeners moving with a smile on their face. However, fans of his other work will be left scratching their heads thinking, “Where did the old Beirut go?”

By no means is this a bad album, far from it in fact. However, most fans of Beirut will feel as though this album is holding back on them, almost as a preliminary for something else. This album instills hope that Beirut is working on a full-length project to be released in the near future, but those hopes will be dashed — because this is that project. Even if this fun album puts a smile on someone’s face, it will be forgotten after one or two listens.

Rating: 3 stars