Ear to the sound

Vampire Weekend by quickfixx
July 10, 2008, 9:53 am
Filed under: Indie, Music, Pop | Tags: , ,

If you listen to much indie rock, Vampire Weekend are probably old news. Thanks to good press and a bunch of songs available online — an early version of this album surfaced in September — the New York quartet became one of 2007’s most buzzed-about new bands. They’re four ex-Columbia University students with a suave sound that incorporates ska, New Wave and Afro-pop — interesting enough for listeners looking for variation among their buzz bands, though not nearly as interesting as some press would suggest. On their debut, Vampire Weekend mostly earn points the old-fashioned way: by writing likable songs you’ll be glad to revisit next month.

For much of the album, Vampire Weekend keep things simple: Songs like “Mansard Roof” are little more than slinky guitar lines, keyboard and string adornments, and caffeinated grooves. Ezra Koenig tosses off sweetly crooned melodies and lyrics that cut nostalgia and romance with a modicum of snark: “Campus” is a vignette about a college infatuation, though Koenig on another song also manages to make a strong hook out of  ”Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?”

As for the African thing, Vampire Weekend cite the blog Bennloxo.com as a source of current Afro-pop; one assumes that they’re also well-acquainted with Graceland. They’re smart enough to know there’s a political dimension to Columbia kids borrowing from Afro-pop, and their appropriations seem fairly unspecific. Those appropriations are also tucked neatly into VW’s sound: “Bryn” rides the kind of triplet-based polyrhythms both India and Africa could claim, but the tune is a love-struck thing Arcade Fire might turn out. Then there’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” the most Afro of the pop tunes here, with a conga groove and register-jumping bass lines. Koenig mentions Benetton. He sings, “This feels so unnatural/Peter Gabriel, too.” VW may grow out of this kind of self-consciousness, but the song is warm and well-executed — just like most of their debut.

Rolling Stone


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