Vampire Weekend

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My history with Vampire Weekend is as follows. Really loved A-Punk off their s/t debut and subsequently the rest of the album. Slowly grew tired of it after being hearing all the time – commercials, dinner parties, radio, etc. I couldn’t escape them. Was really looking forward to their sophomore effort but was nervous if they could pull it off. The sophomore effort always seems to be the toughest. Well, Contra didn’t really do it for me. I tried a few times but that album had zero staying power with me.

The release of Modern Vampires was met by a shrug of my shoulders. But I will say this, the first four tunes on this album is about as good a start as you’re going to get. Modern Bicycle > Unbelievers > Step > Diane Young are all fantastic. The orchestral pop of Step is probably my favorite which is odd as that is usually not my cup of tea. The rest of the album loses steam for me but those four tracks are so good that you get your money’s worth.

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Vampire Weekend – Contra [Album Review]

by Woody on January 13, 2010

Recently released is the new album of one of the more polarizing bands in indie music, Vampire Weekend’s Contra.‚  Ambivalence runs thick with this band and regrettably that is unlikely to change with this album.‚  I’ve written of Vampire Weekend previously after attending a show in Manhattan’s Upper Westside late in 2008.‚  At the time I referred to the band as a “guilty indulgence.”‚  Breezy and syrupy in a way that turns me off when I’m trying to “appear” hip or radically indie and breezy and syrupy at times when I’m searching for exactly that.

Sophomore releases are interesting, particularly for those bands that seemingly spring from nowhere and eventually take the world, at least temporarily by storm. And I put VW into that category.‚  More times than not, bands slip back into the oblivion from which they once emerged.‚  Yet, there’s occasionally those moments when a band evolves and grows in an unanticipated, yet refreshing way.‚  In my opinion, that’s the case with Contra.‚  Yes, there’s the signature Afro-beat, light, syncopated vibe to go with the sometimes tiresome lyrics on some of these tracks (ala the opening number, “Horchata”), but there is also an altogether more textured sound that when paired with some of their more ambitious arrangements only fully reveals itself after repetitive listens.‚  I found some notable traces of influence of fellow Brooklyn natives and Hear Ya “favorites”, Animal Collective.‚  Undoubtedly, that statement is going to turn some of you off, but please don’t let it.‚  There is nothing overly dense or off-putting here, only some welcomed subtle layering that produces surprising results.

The most accessible track is “Giving Up The Gun.” The song that portrays the closest resemblance to the debut is “Cousins.”‚  For me, the last 3 songs, beginning with “Giving Up The Gun” and ending with “I Think UR a Contra” emphatically conclude an album that will continue to propel this band forward amongst its fans.‚  Add to that list, the carefully composed “Taxi Cab” and you have a great slice of music. As for the lyrics, there’s still moments when you may find your eyes instinctively rolling, but I also found the content a little more off-center, less collegiate than their previous work.

For a band that has been incessantly labeled over the last two years, and sometimes in ways that are entirely unflattering and unfair, it should come as no surprise that some of the tracks on Contra strike convincingly at the absurdity of such practices.‚  In fact, it reminds me of the first time I saw VW at Pitchfork back in 2008.‚  Standing close to me was a guy who kept yelling at the indifferent appearance of the crowd, “oh, I guess they’re just not cool enough for all of you”.‚  Well, we should all forget the labels, the lists and the Cadillac commercials and attempt to appraise this music, like anything else, honestly.‚  If you find yourself gravitating towards it, even slightly, join the club and don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.

Vampire Weekend – Horchata

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Top 50 Albums of 2008 [Picks 41-50]

by oz on December 15, 2008

Choosing 50 albums from a single year should not be excruciatingly painful, but it is.‚  I know I’ll have regrets as soon as this list goes live.‚  Thanks to Woody for providing commentary and some healthy debate as we’ve waded our way through the music of 2008. Let’s get started, shall we?

41. The Steeldrivers – Self Titled

The SteelDrivers

I already know I’ll regret not posting this higher on the list. The Steeldrivers inject soul and blues into their bluegrass sound and the album continues to grow on me.

The Steeldrivers – If It Hadn’t Been For Love

42. The Tallest Man On Earth – Shallow Grave

Tallest Man On Earth

The Tallest Man on Earth was the most recent addition to our list. I picked Shallow Grave up on eMusic two weeks ago and the finger-picking and incredible songwriting won me over with ease. A great folk album.

The Tallest Man On Earth – I Won’t Be Found

The Tallest Man On Earth – Into The Stream

The Tallest Man On Earth – Pistol Dreams

43. Two Cow Garage – Speaking In Cursive (our review)

Two Cow Garage

The one constant rumbling of rock and roll hope in Columbus, Ohio’s underbelly is the whiskey soaked sound of Two Cow Garage.

Two Cow Garage – Your Humble Narrator

Two Cow Garage – Brass Ring

44. She and Him – Volume One

She and Him

Volume One greatly exceeded our expectations after hearing that actress, Zooey Deschanel, and musician, M. Ward, were collaborating. Hopefully Volume Two features M. Ward more prominently on vocals. No track for this one, so here’s a video…

She and Him – “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” Video

45. Buffalo Killers – Let It Ride (our review)

Buffalo Killers

The time Cinci’s Buffalo Killers spent touring with the Crowes did them good. Let It Ride is a big step forward from their debut without sacrificing their stoner rock sound.

Buffalo Killers – If I get Myself Anywhere

46. Vampire Weekend

vampire-weekend

Overhyped – yes, Overexposed – yes. An enjoyable listen nonetheless and one of the catchiest pop albums of the year.

Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma

47.‚  Marah – Angels of Destruction (our review)

marah

Another solid effort for one of America’s most under-appreciated rock and roll bands, straight out of Philly.

Marah – Angels of Destruction

48. Mason Proper – Olly Oxen Free (our review)

Mason Proper - Olly Oxen Free

Olly Oxen Free opens with an amazing trifecta of songs. They just brought their indie pop sound into our studio for a live session that we’ll have up soon.

Mason Proper – Lock and Key

Mason Proper – Fog

49. Catfish Haven – Devastator (our review)

Catfish Haven

Otis Redding inspired; this bluesy, soulful album was a pleasant surprise this year.

Catfish Haven – Set In Stone

Catfish Haven – Devastator

50. Old Crow Medicine Show – Tennessee Pusher

Old Crow Medicine Show

Lots of people worried about rock producer, Don Was, producing a bluegrass album. It’s not as good as OCMS’s Big Iron World, but still good enough to make the list.

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For me Vampire Weekend represents something of a guilty indulgence.‚  You know the story of the Brooklyn band that generated online buzz with songs referencing the colors of Benetton, Louis Vuitton and the landscape of Cape Cod; not exactly gritty indie topic matter.‚  Yet, it’s hard to deny their infectious, “happy” Afro-pop melodies that seem to be equal parts Graceland-era Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and fellow New Yorkers, the Strokes.

I had the opportunity to see the band on 12/3 on the victory lap of a tour following its critically acclaimed and popular self-titled 2008 release.‚ ‚  My previous experience with the band was at the Pitchfork Music Festival last summer–not the right venue for the band as they were sandwiched between indie darlings Fleet Foxes, !!!, and The Hold Steady.‚  Furthermore, it seemed most of that crowd was merely waiting around for Animal Collective’s clean-up act.‚  In summary, the Pitchfork show failed to impress.

Wednesday’s show fared much better as the close confines and superior acoustics of the Westside Manhattan location, Terminal 5, and adoring hometown crowd that mouthed every lyric from opening number “Mansard Roof” to the “Walcott” encore, combined to create a rewarding, energized experience.‚  The band was influenced by the atmosphere, as evidenced by their ramped-up tempo.‚  The set list featured the entirety of a modest but strong catalogue, sprinkling in the syrupy Fleetwood Mac cover “Everywhere” and newer material “Ottoman.”‚  However, the most interesting and flavorful touch was the small string section that accompanied the band for a brief period onstage.

Vampire Weekend was in its full glory on this evening, interacting seamlessly with its fellow New Yorkers and casually referencing local landmarks. I’m eager to see how the future unfolds for these guys as they attempt to fend off the dreaded “sophomore slump” that’s taken down many bands coming off fresh, similarly hyped debuts (please see Tapes N Tapes).‚  That will all be determined in good time for on this evening, the band rocked a revering local crowd.

Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma

Here’s a sneak peek of “Ottoman”

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