Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Hey, you know who doesn’t sound like they can barely hold back tears every time they talk about their dead mother, even though she died nine fucking years ago? Why, it’s my old friends in Vampire Weekend. Just listen to these fuckers. Old school hip hop references/drums? Paul Simonized Afro-pop all over the place? Random allusions to Jerusalem? Sounding like the damned feeling of waking up on a summer morning? All of the above!

The bad news here is that they’ve actually given me a few reasons here to dislike them beside the fact that they’re obviously richer, better-looking and more musically talented than I am and totally, unquestioningly okay with it and free to spend their days in sonder and stargazing. The good news here is that there’s still a half dozen songs that lighten my heart and make me smile and get stuck in my head for ever and ever.

Look, not everything can be about introspection. I recognize that. They’re still somewhat singing about sleeping on the balcony after class, but the other focus here is on questions of religion. Which is a tough one, for me, as a total atheist. I’ll totally take “Unbelievers,” especially for that motown keyboard line, but “Worship You” gets a bit too close to genuine religiosity for me, even if I love to death the ultra-fast singing in the verses. Your mileage may vary, as most of the songs here are either about belief or disbelief. At least, the good ones are. There’s really only one song that sounds like the old collegiate days, and that’s the charming opener “Obvious Bicycle,” and even that’s pretty zen with its telling the listener to “spare your face the razor” and “spare the world your labour.” The problem for me, personally, is that I no such questioning of the existence of God, any more than I struggle with the existence of the Tooth Fairy, so “Ya Hey” wouldn’t impress me much if it wasn’t just stupid catchy, which it stupid is. So very stupid catchy that it makes me feel, and not feel anything in particular, except perhaps a love of the way it’s the heir to Graceland. But hey, it’s not as if there’s any actualy Reglious music here, just the thoughts of some 27 year-old Jewish guy, so don’t take it too bad, loyal reader.

There’s quite a few outstanding winners here. Songs that eclipse the entire outputs of lesser indie rock bands. Namely, all the first three songs – the aforementioned “Obvy Bike,” agnostic anthem “Unbelievers,” and old-timey hip-hopper “Step.” Lead single “Diane Young” is way too proud of its annoying vocal effects (the whole album in general, really) and silly pun on “dying young” to be any good, but the aforementioned “Worship You” and “Ya Hey” are some finger-lickin’ good vaguely religious numbers. “Finger Back” is a solid song save for its AWFUL OBVIOUS DUMB POINT (it’s literally a guy with a smug accent talking about “this orthodox girl fell in love with a guy at a falafel shop) bridge, and “Everlasting Love” has a nice intro, but I miss the clean guitar solos that used to be V-Dub’s hallmark.

There are a few forgettable tracks that don’t too much substance here (and “Don’t Lie” is an “M83” retread), but the out-and-out clunker is “Hudson”. Ye GADS what were they thinking? Hey, listeners: are you ready for the melody-free rambling verses and “suspenseful” movie soundtrack music? It sounds like a first-year art project! No es bueno! It’s actually among the worst songs ever recorded by human beings. Just the thought of it hurts me and someday I might be at a party and the host will be playing this album, and that night will be the night I get through out of a party for yelling about how much I hate “Hudson” and anyone who thinks it’s an any way tolerable.

So our talented friends are maturing, and the old times are not forgotten, but I can’t say I love the new lyrical direction, but I can deal as long as there are many great songs. Sounds good to you? Because I’m cautiously optimistic. Damned talented hipster fucks.

7 / 10

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Vampire Weekend – Holiday

Boy howdy golly Jesus fucking Christ, it sure has been a long time since I’ve sat down at the Reviewatron2000 and written about music! It’s also been a long time since I’ve made some handwords about the quality of a musical release! So I’m just gonna ease myself back into things by talking about a wee two-track single. How kid Cute-e!
Now, this might get interrupted, because I’m currently working on a very important project. I am currently, you must understand, transferring thousands of 2013 tax appeal forms to their correct folders. I’m a 28 year old man and this is what I’m currently doing with my summer days. Blarhrhrrh! It’s so boring it’s making me a pirate! Now, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to live in a country where the tax appeal forms are haphazardly categorized, and someone has to do it, but it sure is impossible to make it at all interesting. And since it’s government work, it has to be in the most sad of cubicle farms, with nary a morale-boosting ping-pong table in sight.

This is a sinkle, by everyone’s favourite young, rich, good-looking New Yorkers, Vampire Weekend. Oh look, a sorta-reggae catchy single that’s sort of about vacations and sort of about the Iraq War. Well, it is certainly quite catchy. And then there’s an overly symphonized, un-catchy, lengthier B-side about marrying and divorcing into a wealthy family. At least, that’s how I interpret this, and I must be right or it’ll shatter my whole self-image.
I will grant V-Dub this, and it’s a big This: they aren’t complainers. That Regina Spektor song “Poor Little Rich Boy”? Great song, you probably know it. It DOESN’T apply to them at all. There’s very little caterwauling going on here, and it makes for a refreshing listening experience. All these songs are like Seinfeld observations in their level of emotional detachment – and it’s pretty great. But! When the songs aren’t catchy there’s no personal connection to fall back on, so “Ottoman”, a song that makes a damned piece of fancy furniture its main point of identification, is dead to my ears if I’m not humming it on and off for the next decade. And I’m not! Though “Holiday” is great, it comes from the album “Vampire Weekend Live! At The Movies!” so you should just buy that instead. Though there’s one big advantage to hearing “Ottoman” at least once, and that’s that you won’t be tempted to listen to the soundtrack to “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” from whence it came. According to al-Wikipedia, the director put that soundtrack together to showcase songs from “the best bands nobody’s ever heard of.” I’ll just let that sink in for a minute.

Now download “Ottoman” and never speak of that movie ever again.

6 / 10

Vampire Weekend – Cousins

Just two songs – the album version of “Cousins,” which one leading columnist famously described as “awesome controlled craziness and ends with bells going CLANG CLANGCLANG CLANG CLANG CLANGCLANG,” so that’s good, and the B-side is “California English Pt. 2,” an extremely pro-California trippy song with samples and auto-tuned vocals. It’s interesting to hear V-Dub doing something 25% Aphex Twin, but it’s not their finest moment. As for California itself, I am rather aporetic and I need to visit.

7/10

Vampire Weekend – Contra

Very good, but not near the greatness of the first album. It’s not really their fault; the first album was an all-timer. To expand: the first album featured songs with varying influences, from African Pop to The Strokes. On this one, every song has the same Caribbean, calypso-ish feel, with too many high keyboard notes over everything. The first album’s songs were guitar driven; this album’s mostly keyboard driven, and I just explained what’s wrong with the keyboard feel. The first time I played it for my girlfriend she said it sounds close to bad dance music. At least “Giving Up the Gun” isn’t far away. Listening to the first album for the first time was a revelation of one amazing song after another, making me happier and happier. Here the first listen was increasing disappointment, with the similar feel slowly making me more annoyed until by the track I reached the end I was sick of it. The first album’s songs were great and got better. There were no weak spots. Here there are actively weak songs. The first album had lovable, preppy-but-you-want-them clever lyrics that sinewed around being a wealthy 20-something in New York. These ones are more abstract; and the richness levels at times reach smarmy. Basically, wandering in Manhattan music beats sitting on a beach in The Bahamas music.

Of course, compared to most other albums this is impressive stuff. They really know how to craft good songs that feel of good times without ever seeming like Sugar Ray crap or similar cheesiness. Those high notes in “White Sky” are fucking godly. They make auto-tune sound good in “California English.” Lead single “Cousins,” the only guitar-driven track (and my favourite) here, is two plus minutes of awesome controlled craziness and ends with bells going CLANG CLANGCLANG CLANG CLANG CLANGCLANG and that’s lovable. “Taxi Cab” is quite a nice ballad, and closer “I Think You’re A Contra” is an even nicer ballad, with nearly nothing but ambient keyboards (not calypso-y for the most part) and excellent lyrics about figuring out who’s in the in-group of like-minded young folk and who isn’t. So that’s most of the songs on the album! Yay!

BUT BUT BUT. The smarm: opener “Horchata” is just about sipping tropical drinks on the beach and bragging about getting away from winter. “Run” contains the line “we mostly live to work / until we work to live” but then, lucky them “It struck me that the two of us could run!” in the chorus, where it helps that you can run from your jobs because you don’t feel like it you bastards you. It’s not like they’re great musically, either. Speaking of which, “Holiday” is a good song but it’s fucking ska for fucking’s fuck, and the two least interesting tracks on here, “Giving Up the Gun” and “Diplomat’s Son” are the longest two songs on here and right bleeding next to each other! “DS” in particular is uninteresting and long, long, long by their standards.

And why the heckfire isn’t bonus track “Giant” on the album? Sure, it has the exact same high keyboard notey feel of the album, but opening line “it was all a dream / I used to read fashion magazine” is a GREAT play on the old rap classic. I like it more as a closer than the ol’ ballad-after-two-blah-tracks thing they actually do.

They’re obscenely talented, don’t get me wrong. This is good album. I’ll probably listen to it as much as anything else this summer. But sniff, it’s not the same.

8/10

Vampire Weekend – The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance

Hello hello! My name’s Chromeo, and I’ve been tagged to remix Vampire Weekend’s song “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance” for the B-Side of their single, “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance.” Now, I’m a real self starter, so I have some pretty great ideas for this single. For example, you know that catchy bassline and neat-o thump-a-thump-a-thump-a-THUMP drumline? Pretty neat, aren’t they? Well listen to this great idea: I’m going to get rid of them entirely, and replace the rhythm section with nothing except a synthesized 4/4 drum beat!

Oh, you know the well enunciated vocals? Well, I’m going to make them do stupid loops, especially in the chorus, driving home the message that this is a club dance song that all the kids will dance to. Why you could say that they don’t stand a chance! Ho ha ha!

By the by, you know the guitar lines and strings that played interesting ascending and descending melodies? Well, I plan to replace them all with twirly dated synths that combine with the fake drums to make the song sound like an Aqua song!

Aren’t those all great ideas? Really? I can go ahead and remix it like I said? Well then! Looks like you can consider your song remixed! I’m so glad you’re going to release it as if any fan would want to listen to it!

2/10

Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma

An Oxford Comma is the comma after the last conjunction in a list. The comma after “bread” is the oxford comma in the following stupid sentence:

I’m going to the store to buy toys, bread, and firearms.

The Lil’ Jon song referenced is “Get Low,” while Dharamsala is in India. I’m pretty sure the song is chiding a girlfriend for lying, particularly about money. No, you can not write a song this grate.

Yoo-hoo! Guys, know what’d be inSaNe? If we added a bunch of 1999-era generic club dance music to the backing of “Walcott!” Sickazz!

Buddy buddy, hold the fuck up, I got an idea that’s totally off the hook. Let’s add obvious fake xylophones playing scales on top of those fake club noises! Ohhhh shit nigga mothafucka. Shee-it!

Dudes, I’m going to make you shit yourself right now; I hope you’re wearing your fucking dizzzipers: We’re going to TOOOOOOOEEEEEEEtally fuck with the voices in the chorus. No longer will it go like “Walcott, don’t you wanna get out of Cape Cod, out of Cape Cod tonight?” It’ll go like this: “Walcott, Wal-Wal-Walcott, it’s insane-insane-insane, outta Cape Cod tonight-ight-ight-ight” BAM! World hunger fuckin solved dumb azz hoe fuckmuthas!

If you mixed it like that, that’d be like…an Insane Mix!

Vampire Weekend, collectively: Hell yeah! Let’s release it as the B-side of “Oxford Comma!” 

By the way, my position on the Oxford Comma is this: yes. 

3/10

Vampire Weekend – Mansard Roof

“Mansard Roof?” The first single and they went with “Mansard Roof”???? Crazy old, two-minute long vaguely Jamaican sounding verse one – verse one – verse two “Mansard Roof”? No matter, it’s still a good song, but why? The marketing dept. really thought this would go farther in the charts than “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” or “Oxford Comma”? People of little faith, all of them.

But you probably wanted the B-side. Yes, and a grooby B-side it is. It’s a bouncy, lecherous tune called “Boston (Ladies of Cambridge)” that’s all fast-paced and lecherous for about two minutes and reminds me of Kensington Market, before getting slow for the last minute. It sounds like it’s about visiting friends at Harvard (pricks), and features the line “ladies of Cambridge know who I am,” then tries to temper that by making the chorus “If you leave I just don’t think I could take….it” – PICK ONE. Nah, they’re probably handsome or something. I hope they continue on doing their thing where they get to sound entitled but still meritorious.

And here’s a great idea: you know that show “The Greatest Loser” that’s on on Tuesdays that’s about seeing who loses the most weight in a given period of time? Well here’s the idea: scrap that show, and instead keep the name and have it be about finding the most embarrassing social outcast for the purpose of laughing at them on television! This could take a variety of forms. For example, I like the idea of travelling to a different small town every week and finding ten unliked, lonely people, and one by one, through interviews or challenges, eliminate them until only the biggest loser remains! Then at the end of every episode the other nine would all yell “what a loser!” at the camera. Bam! Another fun idea would be to have the ten outcasts form a new social group, but! The social group would have to consist of only nine of them, and they’d have to somehow decide which one to exclude through the episode. That’d be fun too! Aw man, it’d make great television.

8/10