Thursday, January 31, 2008

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend (XL recordings, 2008)
Grade: B-

Download: Vampire Weekend - "Mansard Roof"
Download: Vampire Weekend - "A-Punk"

At this point, it almost seems superfluous to write a review of Vampire Weekend. In the month, or even year, or so before the release of this album, the hype around this record sprouted legs and ran for the sea.

So does it live up to the glut of blog buzz behind it? Yeah. Sure it does.

The first four tracks are fun little pop songs. "Mansard Roof" and "Oxford Comma" and "A-Punk" find lead singer Ezra Koening belting like a punkier Paul Simon over palatable jangle pop. I've never been a huge fan of Paul Simon, but even I can appreciate the solid construction and bouncing pop in the first part of the album.

At other times, such as on "Campus," the V-Dubs channel a little bit of Belle & Sebastian in their clean, but still a little punky, twee. But the band describes themselves as "Upper West Side Soweto" for a reason. Well, several, I suspect. The first is that they're from New York. The second is that they're so multi-cultural.

And they cannot wait to cram those facts down your throat. "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" is a fun song; it's sunny and warm and brings a bit of heat to Minnesota (wind chill is -44 as I'm writing this). But at the same time, one can't help but feel talked down to by this song. It's a risk-free pop song groping for cred with its African drums and Clap Your Hands-esque howls while still retaining an unironic and unabashed pop feel, characteristics which really set the tone for the rest of the album.

Lyrically, they've achieved a smooth blend of mild wit and sweet vulnerability (that's only kind of a compliment, in case you were wondering). But at the same time, it's really just a fun album. To decide to work with the afropop sound is a bold move, one that is going to instantly make people think of Paul Simon and David Byrne. Unfortunately, they left a lot of unrealized potential when they decided to basically mimic Paul Simon. The drums are pretty solidly woven into the songs, but they don't really take them anywhere new or exciting.

Overall, Vampire Weekend is a good starting point. This album gave them a solid base from which to grow. I think as the guys get more comfortable in the limelight (let's hope the massive amount of attention they've received doesn't swell their heads too bad), they have the potential to produce some really cool stuff if they're just willing to leave their safety zone a little more.

Vampire Weekend MySpace Page

(April Wright)

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