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Music Review: Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

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They’ve been the only band without an album to be shot for the cover of Spin Magazine and the word is they’re the best band 2008 has seen yet. Do these baby faced 20-somethings deserve all the hype the media is giving them? Well, who knows what the year will still bring us but does this new band certainly has validated any possible critical acclaim.

It’s as if both Paul Simon’s Graceland and The Strokes’ Is This It secretly had crushes on The Walkmen’s Bows + Arrows but unexpectedly hooked up with each other instead while they were high on ecstasy. Ladies and gentlemen: Enter Vampire Weekend.

To be honest, when everyone started talking about Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut album, I quickly dismissed the idea of purchasing it merely because of the band’s name. Little did I know, their music is the furthest sound you could get from emo or gothic. When I finally heard the first single, “Mansard Roof,” I was taken aback by the members'  ability to orchestrate smooth melodies over simple but bold beats and then top all layers off with vocals that have a trace of Julian Casablancas. Like Belle & Sebastian, Vampire Weekend has appeared out of thin air as the new accessible but non-excessive pop.

Although it looks as if they’ve just stepped out of a J.Crew ad, these Columbia graduates are completely aware of their Ivy League stigmas and allow the lyrics and music to speak alone. This band is not ashamed of their education and just as hard as they worked to put this band together, they almost boast their highly literate skills in their songwriting.

Koenig had spent the previous summer traveling through India and touring America as part of another band while Batmanglij interned at the Oxford English Dictionary as he studied film scoring downtown. Coming back together, they decided to put together something worthwhile that would include their love of African rumba and Western classical music. With Ezra Koenig (vocals/guitar) majoring in English and Rostam Batmanglij (keyboards/vocals) majoring in Music, they decided to officially form a band at the end of their college years along with Chris Baio (bass) and Christopher Tomson (drums). Vampire Weekend is full of insightful songs that wittingly reveal the story of their lives both within and outside of Cape Cod and Manhattan.

Ironically, one of the band's catchiest upbeat tracks is titled “Oxford Comma.” Serving as a tongue-in-cheek song, it gives the finger to the pretentious liars within relationships as well as a new meaning to the comma. What’s hilariously yet subtly clever is the simultaneous existence of references to Lil’ Jon’s “Get Low” and the former U.S. Ambassador.

“A-Punk,” their second single which is reminiscent of anything by The Strokes, tells the story of a girl named Johanna who commits a major misdemeanor which of course evolves around love, ethics and peace of mind. The title, “A-Punk,” may also be a reference to a ska related genre called “Oi-Punk,” as Koenig repeatedly cries out “Ey, ey, ey!” between each of the verses.

Another song that reveals the lives of these youngsters is “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” where the title pairs their home state landmark and an African dance rhythm. Peter Gabriel is mentioned within in the lyrics a few times which can be linked to the era when both he and Paul Simon both started using the same type of afro-beats within their music.

Other worthy tracks about their surroundings include “Walcott,” a reference to a character in one of their original films, also titled Vampire Weekend and “M79” (also a bus in their area) which sounds a bit like Yann Tiersen (Amelie Soundtrack) on uppers. Of course, they could only write about Cape Cod so much. This is where they enter in “Campus,” a tale of the one night stand awkwardness from college we all know too well.

Vampire Weekend has now opened up for notable acts such as Animal Collective and has a gained a deal with XL Recordings. There has been much hype, but Vampire Weekend has justified their entrance with stylings of retro elegance and punk sophistication. If you have been living under a rock for the past few months, I strongly suggest you go out and buy this album and simply enjoy yourself.

Watch Vampire Weekend look so carefree they could belong in a Wes Anderson film, here, in their first music video, “Mansard Roof.”

Watch Vampire Weekend in their brand new amazingly innovative music video, “A-Punk,” here.

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About Seraphina Lotkhamnga

  • Jon

    Great review, here. I’ll be reviewing it for this site, too, shortly, if I get my act together.
    The Graceland comparisons are undeniable and I do agree with the Strokes comparisons, as well, but the vocalist still has a truly unique voice at other times and I think “A-Punk” is the least Strokes-sounding song on the album, though some of the music on other tracks sounded reminiscent of tracks I’ve heard on the Strokes’ albums or that of Albert Hammond, Jr.’s solo stuff.
    I liked the Peter Gabriel nod, too and of course the Lil’ Jon reference. I can’t wait to see how they follow this up and I’m looking forward to seeing them at Bonnaroo in June.
    Great job once again on the review. I saw a lot of the same things you saw and you also brought to my attention some things I hadn’t thought of. Good stuff.

  • Thanks, Jon! I look forward to reading your review.

  • Charlie

    Great review, but just an editing note: you might want to get rid of the word “does” in the last sentence of your first paragraph. Also, I don’t have the whole album but I saw VW perform “A-Punk” on one of the late night shows (Letterman, I think) and then SNL (already!) and my first thought was that these guys must be a lot of fun to see live – that’s probably what made the buzz about this band spread so quickly. Good stuff indeed.

  • I completely agree, Charlie. Thanks!

  • I’d just recently saw some live footage of these guys,and its a very entertaining show.
    I would have liked to have seen a little more on niche side of things,but thats personal tastes(we just don’t have enough vampires bands out their.)
    great music,fairly hooky,great review.