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Vampire Weekend – [Album]

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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

"Want a little grace, but who’s gonna say a little grace for me?” Ezra Koenig sings on “Unbelievers,” the second track on Vampire Weekend’s new Modern Vampires of the City. Since landing on the cover of Spin in March 2008, lauded as “the year’s best new band” with a debut album that was just weeks old, it’s easy to argue that Vampire Weekend has received quite a bit of grace. The success of their self-titled debut quickly propelled the Columbia grads to prominence, but didn’t shield them from all the hype and expectations that come with it. Now, with the release of their third album, it’s more apparent that the grace Vampire Weekend has been afforded has been well earned.

Steering away from the single-minded approach that so many other bands employ after they've broken through as big as Vampire Weekend has, Modern Vampires of the City sets itself apart quickly in that it doesn’t have one mode in which it operates. There’s room here for the melancholy (“Obvious Bicycle,” “Hannah Hunt”) and the hopefully upbeat (“Finger Back”). The album’s first single, “Diane Young,” feels like a retro throwback with it’s near dance-ready pace and vocal cues seemingly taken from Jerry Lee Lewis on “Great Balls Of Fire.” It’s probably no coincidence that the song title could easily sound like “dying young.” While the album doesn’t offer one clear tone, it does serve some hints that Koenig and his bandmates are thinking about getting older.

“Unbelievers” plays like a more subdued “Walcott,” where that song’s frenetic pace has matured. Here, the bridge has a regal quality – sounding like something along the lines of “Scotland The Brave” – and Koenig is no longer just feeling stuck in Cape Cod, but stuck in the larger world. The singer uses these feelings as fuel, doing some of his loveliest singing on “Everlasting Arms,” a song which begins with an Eighties vibe, and ends with oddly haunting instrumentation courtesy of Rostam Batmanglij. “Don’t Lie” too marries a bit of a retro feeling with worries about growing older, as Koenig sings, “old flames / they can’t warm you tonight / so keep it cool, my baby.”

If Contra felt like it leaned more heavily on the band’s interest in African pop and differentiated rhythms, Modern Vampires… feels more influenced by the likes of The Shins, The National, and Bon Iver. Even if “Step” borrows from Oakland hip hop group Souls Of Mischief, its chorus could have just as easily been sung by James Mercer as Koenig, backed by a Victorian-sounding harpsichord playing a “Pachebel’s Cannon”-inspired line.

Where Vampire Weekend's self-titled debut was instantly arresting for its jangly, catchy songs packed with odd imagery and repetitive choruses, Modern Vampires of the City asks politely for deeper listening. The somber “Obvious Bicycle” feels like more of a closer than an album opener, but it’s a song that trades in gentle commands, making a chorus out of the words “listen” and “don’t wait.” Which is precisely what Vampire Weekend would have you do.

Artist:

www.vampireweekend.com/
www.myspace.com/vampireweekend
www.facebook.com/VampireWeekend
www.twitter.com/vampireweekend

Album:

Modern Vampires of the City
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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Vampire Weekend – [Album]

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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Part of the deal with being a critic is you’re supposed to be somewhat impartial to the stuff you review. But I have to be honest: I was stoked to snatch the latest Vampire Weekend album, Contra, for review. Their first self-titled foray was an unexpected delight, a band out of the ether—and a friend’s generous use of “A Punk” in a video project. My only apprehension on writing this up was, would it meet expectations? Or, like oh so many sophomore efforts, would it fall short of the random genius that made the first album, and made you want a second album?

Such were my thoughts when putting Contra’s ten tracks on my iPod.

And readers, rest assured. Vampire Weekend doesn’t disappoint.

Contra is a solid second effort that shows growth and creative muscle, and they avoid the two most common pitfalls of record no. 2: it’s not a grand change from the style that made them famous, nor is it reheated leftovers from the first album. It’s just an expansion on the sound that we came to love; quirky indie pop with lyrics that took you to some ivy league campus party where the kids smoked pipes and discussed fine literature while drinking cheap liquor.

And if the first album was a study of the sound of the world of studying, then Contra is their spring break. The album is chock full of reggae-inspired tones, heavier, more pronounced percussion and rapid guitars that are a mix of surfer rock and indie rock fun, all layered over Ezra Koenig’s piercing vocal work. This is the sound of rented beaches and late night bonfires, and those Cape Cod kids on vacation.

Opening with “Horchata,” Vampire Weekend grabs your ears and doesn’t let go. With a beat that makes it sound like premier album track “Oxford Comma”'s older brother, “Horchata” rockets off with rapid, island-inspired drumming that folds in on itself and layers with effortless beauty. That reggae-inspired beat flows through most of the album, melding with other genres like in “Diplomat’s Son” which probably has a bright future ahead as a staple at dance clubs. It’s rich with electro sounds and Auto-Tune usage on Koenig’s vocals over a laid back, island-in-the-sun beat.

Bob Marley would be proud.

But never fear, those fearful of monotony. Tracks like “White Sky” and “California English” have a decidedly electro wash, poured over a good base of indie pop. “Cousins” (the track I feel will be the “A Punk” of this album) and “Run” are a little more stripped down, tracks that could slide into their album of yester-year with ease, both showcasing upbeat movements, complexity and depth in a decidedly indie framework. And check out the vocal work on “Run.” Koenig’s arching falsetto puts Coldplay to shame.

And “Giving Up The Gun” must be mentioned for its achievement in being an anti-war song that’s not annoying. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all pro-peace, but most ‘make love not war’ singles shove rhetoric down your throat. Not since American Idiot released have I heard good protest tracks. “Giving Up The Gun” manages to not be trite, with progressive, punchy drumming matched with lots of glittery layers of synth and warbling guitars. This may not be the strongest song on the album, but VW deserves some credit for making a protest song that’s worthwhile.

Just saying.

In short, this album doesn’t suck. In fact, it’s fantastic. It’s not the standard dreaded sophomore release. It’s a solid encore from a group that started with a smash that apparently hasn’t stopped yet. They step forward with their sound (and in the right direction!) and give listeners ten rousting, rocking tracks that are fun listens. If you were leery about this second album being up to snuff, no worries. Contra delivers.

Artist:
www.vampireweekend.com
myspace.com/vampireweekend

Download:
Contra is out now. Buy it on Amazon.

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Vampire Weekend – [Album]

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Monday, 07 January 2008

Vampire Weekend is not a Goth band. They are not a Death Metal act, either. Their songs do not employ the use of heavy guitars or lighting quick drum solos. Their lead singer, a Columbia grad by the name of Ezra Koenig, does not scream into the microphone or pen lyrics that surround death and other dark matters. What they are is a rare Internet phenomenon, made possible in this day and age. Go ahead and type their name into trusty old Google and see for yourself. People ARE talking about these Ivy League grads, and they don’t even have an album out yet! In fact, they have become so widely discussed, that it’s led many followers of the magical music kingdom to wonder whether or not they deserve all of the hype. On January 29th, I expect all of these questions about Vampire Weekend will be resolved, when their self-titled, debut release hits the shelves (unless you are technologically savvy enough to obtain this album beforehand).

My own experience with Vampire Weekend began early in December, when my editor asked me if I’d go their show. To be completely honest, I saw the name and my initial reaction was "no fuckin' way." You’d think after years and years of education that I wouldn’t be inclined to such prejudices. However, despite my pretensions, I took the BART train into San Francisco that evening and have been binge-listening to any song I can get a hold of since.

Taking their cue from Paul Simon, Vampire Weekend has an upbeat African-pop-punk sound that is just fun to listen to. Amongst the band’s early tracks floating around the Internet were "Mansard Roof," "A-Punk" and "Oxford Comma," the latter of which bemoans the superfluous use of a certain grammatical punctuation mark. In this anthem against grammarians, Koenig gives some serious big ups to Crunk icon Lil’ Jon as well. Imagine that—an indie rocker, educated the expensive way, tipping his hat to a dreadlocked man wielding golden goblet. Boundaries have been crossed, a theme that is constant in the persona that is band’s image. Countless journalists have called them "Prep Rock"—yours truly included—and it’s a label that is more-or-less an invented term. No one seems really sure what it means, but take one listen to a Vampire Weekend song, and it seems to make sense.

On the whole, Vampire Weekend is among one of the more enjoyable albums I’ve heard in recent memory. I’m not all together sure which will be the band’s first official single, but any of these songs have strong enough legs to carry a listener through the entire record. Los Angeles based radio station Indie 103.1 recorded a live version of "I Stand Corrected" (see below) and now plays the song fairly regularly. The tune is a slow and synth/piano paced song, skillfully employing the use of Koenig’s pronounced voice. "Bryn" talks of a California beauty that was or is on the forefront of one of the band members mind’s, laced with a sugary sounding lead guitar and the pitter-patter of the symbols. The African sounding drums are no more apparent than on "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" or "One (Blake’s Got a New Face)," leading any listener to make Simon and Garfunkel comparisons. Sidenote: a certain journalist once thought the name in aforementioned song was "Rex" and not "Blake" (strangely, this journalist feels somehow outsmarted by the VW guys, without them even trying).

On the famed indie label XL Recordings, Vampire Weekend is sure to make some bigger waves once their album is legally obtainable to the masses. So, when you tell your friends about VW, and they mock the name, just do like I do, and tell them they’re stupid.

For more information, visit www.vampireweekend.com or myspace.com/vampireweekend

Vampire Weekend is out January 28, 2008 on XL Recordings.

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