Pop & Hiss

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Coachella 2009: Beirut opens crooner hour

April 17, 2009 | 10:17 pm

 Beirut500

Here's a welcome micro-trend (not of the Mark Penn kind) for Friday evening: a triumvirate of golden-throated baritones ruling the night. We'll have much more to say about Morrissey and Leonard Cohen in these pages (but peremptorily: Cohen is made of magic and wise-owl lechery), but for now let's talk Beirut.

How Zach Condon manages to soak up a new country's ethnic music with every album is a feat in itself, but it's just astonishing how he so singularly occupies his songs regardless of where they take him geographically. He's tried on Balkan folk, mid-century French chanson and now evil mariachi on "March of the Zapotec," and has yet to hit a false note despite the studied exoticism. He blows a mean, mean horn live too, and his voice has that perfect ratio of quiver to confidence that'll age like a tasty cognac. If you can get a tenth of a few thousand sweaty kids in tank-tops to clap the offbeats to a sad norteño-riffing ballad, you're in this for the long haul.

-August Brown

Photo of Zach Condon (center) and Beirut by Jay Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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