Wikipedia describes this album as Balkan Folk and, whilst Beirut are neither from the Balkans nor a Folk band, you'd be hard pressed to find a better description.
At this point in time Beirut were basically a Zach Condon solo project. Condon recorded the bulk of the material in his bedroom and plays a dizzying array of instruments including ukulele, mandolin, accordion, trumpet and flugelhorn. Those last two instruments are key, I'm a sucker for a bit of brass as will become apparent as my list progresses. In the studio he had assistance from Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost (who as A Hawk and a Hacksaw know a thing or two about squonky Eastern European inspired folk) but it would be a couple of albums before Beirut became a proper fully functioning band.
Gulag Orkestar was one of the first albums I discovered through the new music website Drowned In Sound and I loved it from the off. This was the sort of music I'd never have heard about through mainstream radio and probably not via the old school music press. DIS provided a portal into a whole new spectrum of musical inspiration.