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Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend

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Album Review

With the Internet able to build up or tear down artists almost as soon as they start practicing, the advance word and intense scrutiny doesn't always do a band any favors. By the time they've got a full-length album ready to go, the trend-spotters are already several Hot New Bands past them. Vampire Weekend started generating buzz in 2006 — not long after they formed — but their self-titled debut album didn't arrive until early 2008. Vampire Weekend also has just a handful of songs that haven't been floating around the 'Net, which may disappoint the kind of people who like to post "First!" on message boards. This doesn't make those songs any less charming, however — in fact, the band has spent the last year and a half making them even more charming, perfecting the culture collision of indie-, chamber-, and Afro-pop they call "Upper West Side Soweto" by making that unique hybrid of sounds feel completely effortless. So, Vampire Weekend ends up being a more or less official validation of the long-building buzz around the band, served up in packaging that uses the Futura typeface almost as stylishly as Wes Anderson. At times, the album sounds like someone trying to turn a Wes Anderson movie back into music (it's no surprise that the band's keyboardist also writes film scores); there's a similarly precious yet adventurous feel here, as well as a kindred eye and ear for detail. Everything is concise, concentrated, distilled, vivid; Vampire Weekend's world is extremely specific and meticulously crafted, and Vampire Weekend often feels like a concept album about preppy guys who grew up with classical music and recently got really into world music. Amazingly, instead of being alienating, the band's quirks are utterly winning. Scholarly grammar ("Oxford Comma") and architecture ("Mansard Roof") are springboards for songs with impulsive melodies, tricky rhythms, and syncopated basslines. Strings and harpsichords brush up against African-inspired chants on "M79," and lilting Afro-pop guitars and a skanking beat give way to Mellotrons on "A-Punk." It's a given that a band that's this high concept has hyper-literate lyrics: the singer's name is the very writerly Ezra Koenig, and you almost expect to see footnotes in the album's liner notes. Once again, though, Vampire Weekend's words are evocative instead of gimmicky. The irresistible "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" rhymes "Louis Vuitton" with "reggaeton" and "Benneton" and name-drops Peter Gabriel (though it's clear the band spent more time with Paul Simon's Graceland) without feeling contrived. "Campus" is another standout, with lines like "I see you walking across the campus...how am I supposed to pretend I never want to see you again?" throwing listeners into college life no matter what their age. Koenig has a boyish, hopeful quality to his voice that completes Vampire Weekend, especially on bittersweet but irrepressible songs like "I Stand Corrected" and album closer "The Kids Don't Stand a Chance." Fully realized debut albums like Vampire Weekend come along once in a great while, and these songs show that this band is smart, but not too smart for their own good.

Customer Reviews

excellent

these guys have really pushed the boundaries with music, they have created something very unique and different. I love their sound, it is very natural and stands in a field all its owns. They have gone out to achive difference and have won my ears. lovely tunes, M79 and Masard Roof are my favourites. But I could listen to the album for eternity and never get bored. brilliant stuff

Summer Anthems

For what could very easily have been the title of a goth band, Vampire Weekend have produced a fantastic collection of breezy melodies that are rapidly becoming my summer anthems. The melodic arrangements never get beyond the level of dreamy, but they create a soundscape which would happily have me dancing at a Big Day Out side stage. A few tracks sag in the middle, but Mansard Roof, Oxford Comma, A-Punk, Walcott, The Kids Don't Stand a Chance, M79 and the brilliant Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa (???) are more than enough to guarantee this ends up on many 2008 Best Of's.

Fresh Sound

I haven't come across something like this in AGES - real talent, really enjoyable stuff. Welcome to my music library Vampire Weekend.

Biography

Formed: 2006 in New York, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Describing their sound as "Upper West Side Soweto," New York City's Vampire Weekend mix preppy, well-read indie rock with joyful, Afro-pop-inspired melodies and rhythms. Ezra Koenig, Chris Baio, Rostam Batmanglij, and Chris Tomson formed the band early in 2006, when they were finishing up their studies at Columbia University. Taking their name from a movie Koenig made during his freshman year, the band started out by playing gigs at the university's literary societies and at parties. Word spread...
Full Bio

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