Perhaps Zach Condon had nowhere left to go but to the edge of the earth. For years, he revelled in playing the musical vagabond, the restless stylistic wanderer who took us to the Balkans, France and Mexico on some of his earlier releases as Beirut, and to the Santa Fe of his youth on more recent ones. By 2019, long-time listeners felt they had already done a full lap of the globe with him; meanwhile, the man himself had done several, each world tour ending with a breakdown more severe than the last. Eventually, his body followed his mind in failing him, laryngitis forcing the cancellation of much of the Gallipoli tour.
He retreated to the very north of Norway, within the Arctic Circle, to the tiny town from which this exceptionally handsome record takes its name. It is bruised and beautiful, the sonic palette largely centred around the stately hum of the local church’s organ, as he sings songs that superficially deal with the majesty of the nature around him (‘Arctic Forest’, ‘The Tern’) but that, on a deeper level, feel like soulful reflections on convalescence, the trademark swells of brass carrying with them a nervous, but palpable, optimism. For so many years a poster boy for wanderlust, how ironic that Condon’s embrace of a slower, stiller life has produced, quite possibly, his finest record.
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