Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Vampire Weekend doesn't suck

There are few words that turn me off an album faster than "indie pop," but I confess, I'm often a pop culture lemming. If everyone else is seeing it, reading it, listening to it, or talking about it, I want to be in on the action. There's been so much fuss over Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend that I eventually caved to the pop culture pressure. And I'm glad I did.

Vampire Weekend is perfect music for cold, icky days when you need some geeky sunshine. It's light and pretty upbeat. What I found most appealing was not so much that it made me smile, but that Vampire Weekend likes to incorporate African and Cuban-style drumming, singing very Eastern American College Boy lyrics over beats from the other side of the world. On top of this percussion, they've got sounds that are distinctly Western chamber-music, cellos and violins. The way the instruments and vocals come together is kind of like a quirky yet fashionable outfit: On its own, the pieces are a little strange. All in one place, it makes you say, "I want that!" One of VW's greatest strengths is its simplicity. The drums are limited to a few different pitches and some smaller, very bright cymbals. In "Oxford Comma," the song that seems to be a fan favorite, much of the subdividing is done on a drum's rim, accented by perky synthesizer chords. Although singer Ezra Koenig doesn't have a huge range, his slightly nasal, nerdy voice fits the band's sound. Lots of syncopation, clean and sometimes silly lyrics and danceable beats make this album an unpretentious joy. Yes, even to us die-hard metal fans.

Favorite songs from the album: Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, M79

Vampire Weekend's web site || their MySpace || review at Pitchfork

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