Zach Condon, the creative force behind the musical project Beirut, has wooed critics and wowed festival audiences since 2006 with intricately detailed songs that borrowed from European folk while being anchored by his smooth, sweet voice. But touring behind 2011’s The Rip Tide left Condon feeling depleted. After a break to recover, Condon and his band recorded the brisk, effervescent No No No, out Sept. 11, over two snowy weeks earlier this year. What’s startling about No–compared not just with Beirut’s earlier, more orchestrated efforts but also with the overstuffed production of so many other new releases–is just how light it feels. It floats by in under half an hour, and even slower tracks like the ballad “Pacheco” possess a playful airiness. The instrumental “As Needed,” which serves as the album’s centerpiece, is also its most pensive moment, with strings brooding and swooning over insistent piano before giving way to guitars. That turn toward seriousness, though, only makes the rest of the album sail even higher.
This appears in the September 21, 2015 issue of TIME.
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