Beirut’s New Hadsel LP Sports an International Flair That Beautifully Realizes the Glass/Eno-Like Scope of Bandleader Zach Condon’s Vision on Vinyl

Musician, composer, singer, and producer Zach Condon has somehow found a way to mesh the sounds of pump organs, real acoustic horn sections, ukuleles, drum machines, world-beat oriented percussion, and synthesizers into a distinctive blend that is immediately identifiable as the group called Beirut — a sound that bears a genuinely international flair processed through adventuresome recording situations. (More on all that in a moment.)

Beirut’s new album Hadsel — a November 2023 1LP release, on Pompeii Records — may be Condon’s most complete statement to date. For this reviewer, at least, it is certainly his and the band’s most satisfying album since August 2011’s The Rip Tide, the album of theirs that was my entry point for becoming a fan. Depending on how you approach it, Condon’s music can loosely recall the mesmerizing drive of Philip Glass’ repetitive minimalist composition style mashed up with the haunting, moody elegance of Brian Eno’s November 1975 classic LP, Another Green World. All you have to do is add a mariachi-flavored horn section, and you are well on your way to understanding much of what comprises the broad scope of the Beirut sound.


From official background materials on Beirut’s site, we learn the genesis of the new album: “The journey leading to Hadsel was both personal and geographical. After battling self-doubt and health issues, including a setback during Beirut’s Gallipoli tour, Condon sought a fresh start. He found inspiration on the remote island of Hadsel, located in northern Norway. Exploring a secluded cabin with minimal daylight and surrounded by the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the region, Condon’s encounter with the local Hadselkirke church organ became a turning point. This historic organ, dating back to the 1800s, became the foundation for the album’s creation.”

While we are not entirely sure of the way(s) Hadsel was created, we suspect it was made via some combination of analog and digital technologies, especially given how Condon was working on that remote island in Norway as well as in Germany and, eventually, London. Even so, right there on the back cover, there is a photo of Condon operating a portable analog reel-to-reel deck (perhaps a classic Nagra?) while sitting at the keyboard of that amazing-looking (and beautiful sounding!) church organ. (See for yourself, in the closeup shot below.)


However Hadsel came together, the final result is a lovely listen from start to finish. The recording sounds inviting without any of those telltale artifacts that can make poorly made digital recordings especially problematic for extended vinyl listening.

While there is no formal indication on the album cover and Beirut site per se as far as the core LP stats go, my copy of the Hadsel LP feels very thick and sturdy like it probably weighs in at 180g. The vinyl itself came pretty well-centered, though Side A could have been a little more precise, if I had a choice in the matter — but it’s not a dealbreaker for me.


The Hadsel LP — which comes packed in an audiophile-grade plastic-lined inner sleeve — is generally quiet. For this, I am thankful, as the only copies of Hadsel that Amoeba Music in San Francisco had in stock were those pressed in cool-looking color vinyl dubbed as being “Icebreaker.” It is a sort of a quasi-opaque, semi-translucent grayish color with white swirls in it, no doubt reflecting the icy cold Norwegian winter.

Of course, I was concerned that my Hadsel LP might be super-noisy — but so far, it has surprised me as generally a pretty quiet and enjoyable listen when played at comfortable and even moderately loud listening levels. However, when you turn up the volume on your amp very loudly, you might well hear some of that telltale pitter-patter whooshing sound caused by heavily patterned multi-color vinyl, especially in the quiet spaces between the tracks. (As the saying goes, your mileage may vary.)

We have yet to confirm where this vinyl was pressed, but if/when we do, we’ll be sure to add an update here. Standard black vinyl versions of Hadsel are available as well as other color variants such as teal and 7-Up green. The SRP for each version of the Hadsel LP is $28.99 (though we have seen a few discounts here and there).


I think it is important to point out Condon’s quest for a new sound — spread across six albums thus far — has led him from Sante Fe, New Mexico, to Brooklyn, New York, to Quebec, Canada, to Oaxaca, Mexico, and even to Gallipoli, Italy. In some ways, it might be inferred that Beirut’s catalog is a sort-of artist’s musical travelog — at least that is how it feels to this reviewer/fan.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Beirut, perhaps a little analogy-description is in order to further paint a portrait in words of what this music sounds like. Akin to the works of the above-noted Philip Glass and Brian Eno, Condon’s songs often revolve around repetitive motifs with layers of countermelody ebbing and tiding. Condon often limits his voice to a near monotone, back-of-the-throat style akin to Brian Eno’s —especially as heard on his early solo albums such as the earlier cited Another Green World and December 1977’s Before and After Science.

But on Hadsel, I am hearing Condon stretching out more than I have noticed in the past, layering up vocals in an almost church-like choral fashion that showcases a more expansive range. It’s a sound that is at once timeless and haunting. Sometimes, it feels like Condon has emerged from a 1920s pre-electric acoustic gramophone recording — while, at other times, it layers up into a full-bodied otherworldly heavenly chorus.

In case you haven’t guessed it by now, I’ve been enjoying Beirut’s Hadsel a great deal. Some of you might even remember I included it in my Top New LPs of 2023 list that appeared alongside AP editor Mike Mettler’s list here, as it was a quick study to become a favorite of mine for the year (and beyond).


Sonics-wise, I think Hadsel is one of the richest-sounding Beirut albums to date. Some of my favorite tracks on it so far include the haunting “Baion” (Side A, Track 3). I also love the woody percussion (loop?) and thumpy bass-drum sound pitted against Condon’s crisp trumpet soloing, trippy synthesizer textures, and heavenly vocal layers of “Stokmarknes” (Side A, Track 6).


Meanwhile, “Spillhaugen” (Side B, Track 1) is another fave, as it very much recalls the feel of Brian Eno’s “The Big Ship,” from the aforementioned Another Green World (one of my all-time Top 10 albums, truth be told). The drum machine and synthesizer vibe on “Spillhaugen” is almost an Eno homage in some ways, conscious or otherwise. The track is just beautiful and lush.

I could go on gushing, but I think you get the idea there is some quite fascinating music here on Beirut’s Hadsel. The Music rates a 10, and the Sound is an 8 (though it’s closer to a 9 without those occasional color-vinyl whooshing intrusions factored in). If you are looking for new music that plays by its own rules and doesn’t align with popular trends, Beirut may just be just the artist to help kick your 2024 vinyl listening into high gear — and Hadsel is a perfectly fine place to start exploring Zach Condon’s singular vision.

Mark Smotroff is an avid vinyl collector who has also worked in marketing communications for decades. He has reviewed music for, among others, and you can see more of his impressive C.V. at LinkedIn.

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1LP (Pompeii Records)

Side A
1. Hadsel
2. Arctic Forest
3. Baion
4. So Many Plans 5
. Melbu
6. Stokmarknes

Side B
1. Island Life
2. Spillhaugen
3. January 18th
4. Süddeutsches Ton-Bild-Studio
5. The Tern
6. Regulatory


Trevor_Bartram's picture

I gave this a listen a couple of weeks ago, perhaps I should try it again? It was OK but I much prefer The Rip Tide, you may too. Me thinks Zach spent far too long in the wood shed, this time! Enjoy!!