on 30 January 2009
One of the odd things about trying to describe New York's Vampire Weekend, isn't who has influenced them the most, but the sheer diversity of the various influences. The African rhythms on their 2008 debut album smack of Zimbabwe's Bhundu Boys or The Four Brothers; while lead vocalist Ezra Koenig's delivery reminds of Sting from The Police's 'Regatta de Blanc' period. However, there's a touch of Broadway show tunes in there, some baroque quartet and even some Brandenburg Concerto Bach. Whatever the influences, the Noo Yawk proto-punk style has been completely re-imagined with ambiguous lyrics about delightfully esoteric subjects. Most of the references are so obscure you are left scratching your head wondering what it could all mean, so it's best to just let the whole wash over you and enjoy the quirky pop sensibilities and addictive tunes.
Seriously, there's nothing not to like here!
on 25 February 2008
OK. So I'm bored with the parade of safe singer songwriters and 60's style soulsters who are clogging up the charts, and Radiohead's latest doodlings are not making me feel any better.
But this is a breath of fresh air! Thank you Vampire Weekend!
Every so often there is a band with the breadth of vision to put a lorry load of influences into the blender and come up with something crisp and fresh.
Yes, there is Strokes style Noo-York Noo-Wave in here, African beats and Rythms, Classically influenced chamber pop, Barber Shop, and........ The sort of feast that pop groups served up between 1978 and 1984. But it is a lot more than the sum of it's influences - and Vampire Weekend show some great songwriting ability. And heck, it's just plain fun. This is going to get a lot of 40somethings putting their dancing shoes on again and getting on down to the likes of A-Pop which is pretty much 2Tone Ska revisited.
This is a college record and proud of it. It's a smart record and proud of it. It tosses words around with a gay abandon that reminds me of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.
Best of all this is a Spring and Summer record with a mixture of New York and African sunlight oozing from it's grooves.
Pop just got smart again - Rock just got fun again!
I must be getting old because I bought this after reading a review in the Grauniad!!! But no regrets here- it's fun, quirky pop that put me in a spring mood, probably because of the reggae/Afro rhythms that permeate the tracks. The most obvious comparison that sprang to mind for me was actually with the Beatles because, like a Beatles album, the tracks are all a bit original and eccentric.
on 16 January 2008
The debut album from the (over) hyped NYC foursome is excellent power pop, with African Rhythms and happy jangly guitar. It's short, with lots of the songs barely cresting 3 minutes. But it makes up for it with huge fun hooks and lots of variety. It's a strong opening album from a band I hope survive the huge attention they are getting. The lyrics are at times high handed references to war and historical figures, but at their best are good stories and times socially relevant. Either way you slice it, it's the end of January and this CD will be making lots of year end "best of's". Purchase immediately, if not sooner.
Best tracks: A-Punk, Walcott, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, The Kids Don't Stand A Chance
on 12 February 2008
Vampire Weekend are the latest New York band being tipped as "the ones to watch" by those in the know. Here, they've delivered an album full of bouncy, somewhat quirky pop songs with bags of melody and 'smarter-than-you' lyrics and New England references that makes the bands 'preppyness' pretty obvious.
Because of their well-to-do social background, The Strokes have become an easy comparison to make for music journos, but Vampire Weekends sound is less retro, less guitary and less spikey. The emphasis here is on light, melodic pop tunes with a bit of Afro-beat thrown in (hence the other easy comparison, Paul Simon). It's a record that doesn't sound like much else out there, and the band seems to be having a good time themselves, which transmits to the listener.
Aside from the excellently odd single "Mansard Roof" which has been doing the rounds for a few months now, the highlights for me are new single "A-Punk", possibly the most energetic track on the album, "Campus", a straightforward happy-go-lucky ditty and the Graceland-esque "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa", which is quite possibly the most melodious, bounciest track I've heard in years (and it also name-checks Peter Gabriel for good measure).
This is an album for sunny weather. I doubt it will become the first CD you reach for during those introspective, thoughtful moments, however, put this on before a night out and it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
on 29 June 2008
I want to like Vampire Weekend. I really do. They deserve kudos for keeping their songs short, fun and catchy, while bringing Soweto-style rhythms to the masses for the first time since Graceland. Fun little melodies bounce along as if their only purpose is to make you happy, and singer Ezra Koenig yaps his vocals like a playful puppy, eager for a biscuit. So far, so endearing. But there is something of a feeling of look-at-me smart-arsedness about it all that threatens to undo their good work at times. Recent single Oxford Comma is an example - a song that seems to bemoan grammatical fascism and an obsession with correct spelling. I mean, eh? Someone is wearing their clever trousers. Catchy tune, though.
But while there are other disappointing moments - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa starts off giving the impression that it's going to be better than it turns out, while One (Blake's Got A New Face) is just plain ruddy irritating - there are a lot of good moments too. Opener Mansard Roof is a short but pleasing way to get the ball rolling, and stays in the head much longer than its 2 minute running time; A-Punk will get fans of late 70s 2-Tone feeling nostalgic; while my personal favourite M79 is a delight, starting with a bright little harpsichord intro (yes, a harpsichord) and featuring a string section jaunty enough to bring the sun out.
I get a distinct feeling there is a very good album in this band. This just isn't yet quite it.
on 3 January 2009
I caught onto Vampire Weekend a little late, thanks to an Amazon reccomendation. Very glad I got there in the end! This is a very, very good CD that makes it into the 5 star rating thanks to the strength of the best of the songs, rather than the entire body of work which would Vampire Weekendstill have got it a 4. First couple of plays I wasted time playing 'spot the influence'. That was untimately futile as, other than the obvious Paul Simon Graceland influence on a couple of tracks, these songs are very good in their own right. What does the inspiration matter as long as the songs are INSPIRED? I read a press review comparing them to Madness which I consider to be VERY misleading. The Mads are a kind of musical comedy act, while these guys have a sense of humour but are seriously good. Favourite tracks are 'Oxford Comma', 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa', 'One' (Blake's got a new face)and 'Walcott'.
on 4 June 2008
Having listended with disdain as boring guitar hooks have begun dominating the radio stations, I was so relieved when I heard this album. For years, the best bands were releasing albums of high quality, but since guitar music returned to being all the rage, record companies have been more willing to release the mediocre in order to cash in on the popularity of it. Finally, this album has seen top quality, inventive music return.
It is somewhat ironic that this British observor has needed some more New Yorkers to reignite his passion, but after hearing all the recent, average British deliverings from the likes of Pigeon Detectives, Foals and the like, it was just this slick, confident New York helping that I needed. It is a similar feeling for me as when The Strokes first burst on. That relief. Granted, this period of mediocrity has not been as long as it was preceding The Strokes, but this is still an important break from an important band.
It has been apparently hard for bands to be original in the current climate but this album achieves that and more. From the first bars of "Oxford Comma" and "A-Punk" to the cute, African influenced strings of "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa", this is so refreshing. Synths are also used in careful quantities and they fit in perfectly. The vocals are young, naive and bold. Which is superb.
"I Stand Corrected" is a beautifully crafted, lyrically-confessional masterpiece of this moment in musical time. It is, for me, the standout track of the album with it's elegant mixture of harmonising strings with military-style drums. It's length and abrupt end just bring about more of the inevitable comparisons with Casablancas and New York's finest on their legendary debut. And in the next track, "Walcott", they seem to combine epic with lo-fi, however impossible that may seem. And again, the abrupt end is brilliant.
This album is one that will make you sit up and listen and take great note. Unlike so much recently, it is not background music. It is innovative, inventive, original, bold and confident. When a band can cram all those things successfully into a debut, only good things can come. And at little over 30 minutes, you will be left craving more.
on 11 May 2009
This is my first ever Amazon review and I think it's a great album to break my cherry to. Vampire Weekend manage to make music that sounds so retro yet so fresh at the same time. And perfect for summer time. They certainly don't sound like they're from NYC. The thing that makes it stand out for me is the drumming. Listen to the first track "Mansford Roof" or "Bryn" or "I Stand corrected" - the drumming sounds so fresh and clean, it just makes you want to listen to just that part of the mix. All the songs have that strange "I'm sure I've heard this before" vibe to them - these guys write seriously catchy pop tunes but then match it with a unique sound - with the African style drums and the caribbean style guitar work. Hard to pigeon hole them which is always a good thing. Excellent work - only misses out on a 5 star by the album not being diverse enough - I think they could have brought a few more experimental sounds/directions in - they definately have the ability to - they do this on "One" with a pulsating synth in parts - I think this is probably the best track on the album for me. Also "I stand corrected" goes down the slightly darker tip which is a direction they could try. I hope for their next album they push things on to another level but for now this is a great album and one of the most original sounding bands I have heard for a long time.
on 17 April 2011
Upon my first encounter to Vampire Weekend (on Jools Holland, sometime in 2008) I dismissed them. Why? It was probably due to the choice swearing on Oxford Comma; which I perceived to flippantly belittle English grammar. Also, concededly, I disliked (or maybe I just didn't quite `get') the African rhythms that the band employed. Or maybe it was Ezra Koenig's delivery that grated. Either way, I was made to rue my detrimental views towards them several years later, especially after my discovery and subsequent infatuation with another preppy, whimsical group with a taste for exotic rhythms (that band being Talking Heads, of course).
A family friend, quite bizarrely, had the album on in her car driving back from the village shop (not at all representative of my weight and overall laziness, I should stress, but I digress) Hearing the album from `Campus' onwards somehow made it more accessible. The track itself, with its shuffling bassline and more immediate chorus somewhat whetted my appetite. The cascading guitars of `Bryn' and the synth washes amidst the off-kilter rhythms of `Blake's Got a New Face' also instigated my intrigue. Then, of course, the car journey abruptly ended and I listened no more.
Eventually, I did give the album a listen in full; and I was astounded by the band's fully-formed cohesion and musical vision. It is simply a set of concise, cerebral, punchy and musically accomplished songs (and not a complete rip-off of Paul Simon's Graceland, as a fair few lazy reviewers are apt to point out). The band combines obscure lyricism with chamber-pop, reggae and African musical influences. This formula on paper sounds artificial; being arty and clever for the sake of mixing genres and, well, being difficult. Yet the band's genuine affinity for these genres, as well as the effortless way they assemble them into their own definitive sound, only makes their debut more convincing.
Opener `Mansard Roof' is possibly the song most indicative of the album's sense of fun and absurdity. The random, but well-placed organ stabs at the beginning make for an unconventional opening. The outlandish lyrics add a sense of mystery and playfulness, with images of French architecture and (seemingly) the Falklands War sitting uncomfortably together.
On second thoughts, Oxford Comma is a brilliant pop song. Aside from the affecting, and relatively direct, lyric in the chorus: ("Through the pain, I always tell the truth") the song's effectual backbeat is matched by the magnificent crescendo towards the end.
`A-punk' is even more catchy. Its spidery riff and `Oh!' chants may have doomed the song to many a drunken indie dance-floor for at least the next decade, but all this is counter-balanced by some deft flutes courtesy of a mellotron in the bridge. Its brevity, at a refreshing 2.18, encapsulates the band's sheer effectiveness.
`Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa' sans the arbitrary Peter Gabriel references, is pure nonsensical fun. `M79' is perhaps the only reggae-infused baroque pop song in existence, and certainly the only one to be glorious.
There is, however, a detectable lull in the second half, with `I Stand Corrected' and `Walcott' perhaps overstaying their welcome a little too long. But this makes perfect sense, gearing up towards the finale: `The Kids Don't Stand a Chance'. If there is any song on this album that epitomises Vampire Weekend's promise, it is this. Initially, it appears not to be as exciting as the shorter songs on the album, but the song can be categorised as a slow-burner. The sparse bassline and the snare drum kicks are the soundtrack to more dissociation lyrics in the verses. But soon this develops into a majestic, elegant closer; an aural picture matching the grandeur of the chandelier depicted on the sleeve. Sweetly picked guitar merges with a swooning orchestral arrangement, where cracking drums are offset by ornate flourishes of harpsichord. It seems illogical that something so exhilarating could be so delicate, but this is testament to the giftedness of this four-piece. As they say themselves: "The precedent's already set now".