Tag: Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend is one of those groups that has managed to jump from relative obscurity to national success seemingly overnight. Their debut, self-titled, record had appealed to the preppier side of the indie-music scene while utilizing African rhythms in a way that caused many to draw comparisons to Paul Simon’s classic album Graceland. When their sophomore effort Contra debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts a few weeks ago, more than a few heads began to turn.
As someone who thoroughly enjoyed their debut, I was a little dubious of the hype surrounding the new record. The tracks “Horchata” and “Cousins” surfaced several months in advance of the official release and I was worried that the group had sacrificed their warm, poppy sound for an over-produced record.
Upon repeated listening, Contra begins to grow on the listener. Rather than rejecting the slight change in sound-direction that Vampire Weekend has taken, I have begun to embrace it and actually find the new release quite enjoyable.
“California English” stands out as a song that showcases the group’s new sound while hearkening back to their roots. Upbeat drumming and bright guitars back singer Ezra Koenig’s vocals (which may or may not have some tinges of auto-tune).
There are other gems on the record, including the danceable “Run” and the frantic “Cousins.” As a whole, Contra is an entertaining listen, although some of the later songs all run together, this caused me to zone out a bit while listening.
When compared to the other records that are currently on the top of the Billboard charts, Contra is a refreshing chart-topper. Vampire Weekend has managed to create a record that has broad appeal while still falling largely under the “indie” subgenre. While it might not suite the most elitist music snobs, it certainly has the rest of us singing along.
Watch the video for “Cousins” here
I have often expressed my appreciation for music-session-blog Daytrotter. They’ve done what I could only imagine doing: recording the best up-and-coming artists from a wide swath of the modern independent music using old-fashioned full-band recording techniques.
Yesterday’s session features 6 songs (available for free download, just click on the photo above) from former Hot Water Music singer Chuck Ragan. Earlier this summer we had the chance to see Chuck open for Lucero at the Bluebird, and as I remember Chuck gave one of the most intense folk performances I’ve ever seen.
I thought I’d also take the time to share some of my other favorite Daytrotter sessions here too. Click on the images to go the respective sessions.
This is a collaborative article, it’s the work of Jake, Spencer and myself.
Top Ten Mainstream Albums
1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Although a debut album, the Fleet Foxes sound more mature and together on their self-titled release than most bands ever sound. Harmonically, the band sounds almost immaculate. They create an ethereal mood which is hard to lose after listening to the album. Although lyrically straightforward, the music is the important part of this album and it is executed astonishingly well. Listen to “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” “White Winter Hymnal,” and “He Doesn’t Know Why.” -JR
2. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
The New York indie scene broke out nationally this year, and leading the wave was Vampire Weekend. Their sweater-vested semi-classical approach to music is infused with African drum beats and subtle pop-culture references. Catchy melodies and lyrics match the equally well orchestrated instruments on VW’s first album. Listen to “Mansard Roof,” “A-Punk,” and “I Stand Corrected.” -TW
3. Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords
It’s not often that a comedy album makes the top ten albums list for a year, but Flight of the Conchord’s self-titled album is more than your average comedy album. The first release from the New Zealand duo is satirical and sarcastic in every sense; even the music mocks popular styles. The songs are simultaneously well-produced musically and hilarious lyrically. Listen to “Think About It,” “Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros,” and “Business Time.” -JR
4. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak
Innovation occurs when risks are taken. Kanye’s newest record does not pick up where 2007′s Graduation left off, but instead cuts a new track. Markedly simpler in production, 808s relies heavily on three things: drum machines, lyrics, and auto-tune. This move produced one of the most honest sounding hip-hop records released last year. Listen to “Paranoid,” “Street Lights,” and “RoboCop.” -TW
5. Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs
A mark of a great song is when the same melody from it can be repeatedly played without losing interest. Death Cab for Cutie tested this theory multiple occasions on this album and proved it true. Although being deceptively simple, many songs from this album have the potential to stay around for years. With a superb blend of light vocals and mixed instruments, this album will not soon be forgotten. Listen to “Cath…” and “No Sunlight.” -SN
6. TV On The Radio – Dear Science
In their newest album, TV On The Radio brilliantly uses drum loops and deep, eerie lyrics to present an interesting and fun record. Dear Science is at times chaotic, at times somber, and at times full of grandiose beauty. At all times, however, it is intelligent, entertaining, and deeply poignant. Listen to “Lover’s Day,” “Golden Age,” and “Halfway Home.” -JR
7. Anberlin – New Surrender
Shifting into a more mainstream sound has not stopped Anberlin from continuing their stream of catchy lyrics and melodies. Despite a deeper dependence on a synthesizer, Anberlin’s music continues to be driven by fast guitars and unforgettable lyrics. Listen to “Breaking” and “Haight St.” -SN
8. Coldplay – Viva La Vida (Or Death and All His Friends)
Hailed as the new U2, Coldplay shot to stardom unflinchingly with their previous albums. Holding up under the intense expectations of fans and critics alike, Viva la Vida portrays Coldplay’s classic sound in some songs, while musically progressing in others. Listen to “Lost!” and “Violet Hill.” -SN
9. Snow Patrol – A Hundred Million Suns
Snow Patrol combines a fast-paced alternative rock sound with simple melodies and song structures for a relaxing album. With an unusual singing style that varies through the album, A Hundred Million Suns keeps originality close to its core. Listen to “If There’s a Rocket Tie Me To It” and “Disaster Button.” Â-SN
10. I Hate Kate – Embrace The Curse
This record mixes 80′s new wave with modern pop to produce an enjoyable listening experience. Perhaps one of the best parts of this album is that there is definite ebb and flow; not every song sounds the same. Listen to “Bed of Black Roses,” “It’s You,” and “I’m In Love With A Sociopath.” -TW
Albums You Should Know
1. Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line
With a strong string section composed of a violin and a cello, Ra Ra Riot’s quick yet relaxed sound is excellent for studying, but is also upbeat enough to dance to. With a perfect blend of all instruments, they skillfully move from songs reminiscent of the Beatles to an 80′s style synthesis-driven song to a Kate Bush cover written in waltz time. The phenomenal chemistry of the band is well represented by all aspects of the album. Listen to “Dying is Fine” and “St. Peter’s Day Festival.” -SN
2. Sigur Rós -Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Beautiful and unique soundscapes fill Icelandic band Sigur Rós’s newest release. Jónsi Birgisson’s falsetto voice at times soars above the background music in a piercing and intense way. Other times, he matches the tone and intensity of the sound he is singing with, creating some of the most ethereal and stunning sounds being produced by any band today. Listen to “Gobbledigook,” “ViÃ° spilum endalaust,” and “SuÃ° í eyrum.” -JR
3. Colour Revolt – Plunder, Beg & Curse
Realization, raw vocals, and silvery-sounding guitars fill this record. Lyrically reminiscent of the epic poems, it maintains timeless ideas about the frailty of humanity and the fleeting nature of temptation. Musically, singer Jesse Coppenbarger’s intense delivery matches the well-produced instrumentation. Even with a few exceptionally strong tracks, this album should be taken as a whole. Listen to “Moses of the South,” “A Siren,” and “What Will Come of Us?” -TW
4. The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride
In their 16th album, The Mountain Goats continue to impress with deep and touching lyrics, complimented with equally touching melodies. Lead singer John Darnielle’s vocal skills, which allow him to move from a warbled, but pure, quiet to a confident, and sometimes angry, crescendo, drive the album. However, brilliant guitar and drum playing accent the music more readily in any previous Mountain Goats releases. Listen to “San Bernadino,” “Heretic Pride,” and “So Desperate.” Â-JR
5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!
After a four year hiatus, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds returned in 2008 with their 14th studio album. In it, the band seems to forget that twenty-year-old groups are supposed to put out predictable albums, instead producing what may be their most exciting release to date. Lead singer Cave sounds like any punk rock frontman should – full of swagger and an attitude which compliments the driving bass and drum beats. Listen to “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!,” “Albert Goes West,” and “We Call Upon the Author.” -JR
6. Nada Surf – Lucky
Nada Surf is one of those bands that has been around for over 10 years and has not released a bad record. Lucky showcases a more mature and developed sound with beautiful melodies and bright lyrics. Listen to “Whose Authority,” “Weightless,” and “Are You Lightning?” -TW
7. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
If My Morning Jacket wanted to make an album which was easily pigeon-holed, they wouldn’t have made Evil Urges. They spend time flirting with psychedelic hippie rock, play with folk roots, and throw in some late-80s electronica. However, each song is without genre, and distinctly My Morning Jacket. Listen to “I’m Amazed,” “Evil Urges,” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pts. 1 & 2.” -JR
8. The New Frontiers – Mending
A bold mix of indie-pop and alt-country, the only full length release of the now-disbanded New Frontiers is a monument to their musical prowess. Mending covers a broad range of emotions and poses deep questions. Listen to “Black Lungs,” “This Is My Home,” and “Who Will Give Us Love?” -TW
9. We Shot The Moon – Fear And Love
Formed in the wake of Waking Ashland’s breakup in 2007, We Shot the Moon managed to produce a well-put together album within a year. The piano-based songs are well-balanced with their lyrical style. Uplifting and upbeat, their songs leave the listener feeling quite positive. Listen to “LTFP” and “Julie.” -SN
10. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound
The ’59 Sound channels the classic sound of Bruce Springsteen while adding straightforward punk sensibility and style. This record inspires a certain sense of nostalgia with enjoyable and danceable tunes. Listen to “Old White Lincoln,” “The ’59 Sound,” and “Miles Davis & The Cool.” -TW
Local Releases of Note
3OH!3 – Want
In an innovative fusion of rap and techno, these two white guys from Boulder certainly have gained massive popularity across Colorado. Selling out their highly energetic shows quickly, 3OH!3 has developed a large fan base in this state. Their album goes from one dance-worthy song to another with impossible to forget melodies. Listen to “I Can’t Do It Alone” and “Starstrukk.” -SN
Fear Before – Fear Before
Hardcore music has never been more accessible than with Fear Before’s newest release. Opting to focus more on melody and lyrics instead of sheer heavy sounds, this record is enjoyable even outside of a mosh pit. Listen to “Treeman” and “Review Our Lives (Epic).” -TW
DeVotchKa – A Mad & Faithful Telling
DeVotchKa, the Denver band made famous by their appearance on the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack, continues to use unique instrumentation and imitate unique music styles very effectively in their newest album. They incorporate Eastern European, Spanish, Mexican, and American music in a unique and interesting way. Listen to “Basso Profundo” and “Along the Way.” -JR
“Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”, “Upper West Side Soweto”, and “Oxford Comma Riddim” are just some of the adjectives that Vampire Weekend uses to describe their sound. If these “genres” sounds pompous, then the band has achieved its goal. Vampire Weekend is composed of four Columbia graduates from New York City, and they’re not afraid to make their preppy backgrounds known (ironically in some cases). Despite this, their self-titled debut album delivers a nice blend of African and Caribbean rhythms and harmonies with laid back indie-pop melodies and lyrics.
The band was relatively unknown until they started sending record companies and music blogs a blue CD-R, aptly titled Vampire Weekend: Blue CD-R. This contained un-mastered copies of songs which would eventually appear on their new album. Although major record companies ignored them at first, some well-known blogs were very impressed with the innovative style of the band, and gave them outstanding reviews.
Vampire Weekend begins with “Mansard Roof” – the album’s single – which makes obscure references to McDonalds (which have mansard roofs) as well as discussing the Falklands War. Although the lyrics are vague and needlessly obtuse, simple piano chords and arpeggios permeate the song, giving it a relaxed feel, while lead singer Ezra Koenig’s tenor voice conversationally sings about McDonalds the way only a Columbia graduate would.
In the track, “Oxford Comma,” smooth and light guitar riffs and African dance beats from the drums provide an ideal context for the song, in which the singer chastises someone for the same preppy attitude that pervades many of the other tracks. One of these tracks is “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” which talks about the very rich vacationing for the summer in Cape Cod. However, relaxed guitar riffs and informal singing still is the base of the sound, and the song ends up being extremely catchy.
Vampire Weekend combines the same laid back attitude toward songwriting displayed by the Strokes with rhythms common in South African pop music. Despite the odd combination, it makes for an addictive sound which, after the initial confusion caused by the style, will cause repetitive listening.