So, I really didn't like Vampire Weekend before this album, and I'm sure there are a lot of other people who feel that way. It's unfair, as I never gave their other two albums full distraction-free listens as I did this one (multiple times). Something about their "overly intelligent" lyrics and overall preppy sound kind of made me hate them, but it's probably just jealousy because they are a good band, as this album proves. There are a couple of songs on this album that I don't love - Diane Young exemplifies what I don't really love about the band, namely the way Ezra sings the opening of the song just rubs me the wrong way. Finger Back sounds a little more like their older stuff to me and it just doesn't do much for me. But for the songs I don't love, there are some really really good ones. Step, Worship You, Ya Hey - they are well written songs that seem a little more real than previous VW. I also think that Young Lion is a really weird, cool way to end the album.
This is a good record. It's not my favorite album and it never will be, nor is this band - I don't love Ezra's voice at times, the drum parts aren't that awesome, and there are some other reasons why VW is not my perfect band. But they made a pretty damn good album and I'll give them that.
Friday, May 17, 2013
So, I've decided that I've been affected enough by their new album to write my own review for Modern Vampire in the City. Say what you will about Vampire Weekend. I personally think that they're great for a few reasons. Let me preface with something.
Generally speaking, I feel like the connection that I made with music when I was younger was one that most people had when they were younger - it's pleasant noise that your parents listen to created by god-knows-who in whatever decade it was that you weren't even fucking alive. I liken the effect to something Ken Levine (creative director of Irrational Games coincidentally enough, as I can't get enough of the company and am basically focusing all of my creative energy at getting their company's attention, but that's another story altogether ha anyway...) said about the way he perceived early video games (bear with me) he simply consumed when he was a kid, that they were just kind of there. He didn't give much thought to someone actually making them, that there was some kind of creative production behind them much in the same way that neither he nor any of us ever really truly considered the person making Oreos when we would eat them as kids. True? Maybe. Huh?
Anyway, the point that I was getting at is that there was certainly an age at which I started making a larger, substantial connection to the musicians creating the music that I enjoyed, simply by realizing that there were, in fact, actually people making the music. Am I describing that right? Long gone became the days that I would listen to music as a spontaneous, mysterious thing. It became much more about actually relating to what the musicians creating the music had to say, write, infer, sing, whatever, and I feel like this is an important point to make starting out, because those really cool kinds of connections, for me, at least, arrived probably around the time that I was old enough to be the same age as the people creating the music. The connection became so much more real when thinking about musicians as peers, contemporaries.
It's this, basically: with this album, it's been fun for me to think that there is a group of dudes in New York roughly my age making music about things like life and death and writing soupy, gobbledeegook lyrics that really kind of affect me somehow. Also, I think of the music that my parents really love, and it all seems to be the music they were listening to in their late twenties. So, there's that. Go figure.
Specifically, the listening was fun. The release date for the album happened to coincide with my and my roommate Sean's time frame for looking for the music we want to carry with us into our summer adventures. This is very important: around this time, we sit out on our back porch, theorize about ways to quit smoking cigarettes before we're 30, have the occasional beer, and trade iPod listens for stuff that we can agree will just be great in the summer months. It's kind of the thing to do in Brighton in April and May...
Obvious Bicycle - this song really kind of set the tone for the album for me - obviously, as it's the first track, but, still, I went into the album like many others did, expecting some kind of quick, young, summery sounding thing or some quirky weirdo song about a bike, and it was something different. It had this sound to it, as if it was actually meant to be an introductory song. And I feel like that's different than the songs that ended up on their self-titled and Contra. Plus, Rostam is all over the place in this one, which is different.
Unbelievers - this song also helped set the tone. Here I was, again, thinking that the album would be light and not really committed to any kind of clear agenda, and then ideas about faith and modern religion bubble up in the mix. The beginning is also striking in that it sounds more like Van Morrison's Moondance than any other comparison that could be made, I think.
Step & Diane Young - I'll group these two, as I had first heard them before the album dropped. I may have even heard Step months before as a demo. These songs are just crazy and kind of point to some of the pacing that happens later in the album - slow songs endings into abrupt song beginnings, exaggerated song styles (Diane Young, for example, reminds me of Eddie Cochran or Carl Perkins mixed, absurdly, with Huey Lewis and a dash of Springsteen thrown in. Christ.) that jump around weirdly. One thing I should also mention is that the pacing of this album is such that it's hard to consider any one song independent of others. For example, it's hard for me to even consider Diane Young without thinking about how Step leads into it.
Don't Lie - For some inexplicable reason, I always forget how Don't Lie sounds. The only thing I ever really remember about it is the fact that it's one of the least listened to songs on Last.fm, which is bizarre, because I think it's great. Whenever I remind myself of the song by listening to it, I'm kind of overjoyed. The stupid stompy drums and bizarro organ are fun as hell and work really well with the way that Ezra becomes pretty intense with the hook. Pretty cool. Should be more memorable, but isn't. Whatever.
Hannah Hunt - My history with this song: appreciated it for how subdued it remained for a few minutes, really appreciated it for showcasing whatever-the-fuck it is that Ezra did at 2:58, cringed briefly when I realized that it was unabashedly written about a girl, decided to embrace it for what it was, totally love it now. A great implementation of Rostam's piano work, too, and it leads in to the next song extremely well. Lovely.
Everlasting Arms - A refreshing return to some of the sounds that made these guys big in the first place, but, as some reviewer who I have since forgotten the name said, this song (and, by extension, the entire album) is Paul Simon-y, but derived from a Paul Simon album that doesn't really exist yet. Take that as you will, I guess. This one - as well as pretty much all of the songs on the album - has a sneaky hook that will burrow pretty deep in your head. ALSO, one more thing about it as I'm listening to it at the moment, this is the first song that this really weird voice modulation that either Rostam or that Ariel whateverhisname is throws in the mix to make Rostam's voice sound like an oboe - too cool and really kind of hard to pick out in the first listen...
Finger Back - Like Diane Young, this song just really reminds me of a lot of the '50's Rock 'n' Roll dudes that weren't Elvis. It also reminds me of The Shins. By the end, it starts sounding like a mashup of all of that with something that Brian Wilson would throw together, which is fuckin' great. There's also the first of two examples of, like, spoken word interludes on the album, which I loved immediately. What a stupid/great thing to do. Draw your own conclusions there.
Worship You - I've become used to the song at this point, but when I heard this song for the first time, it sounded like it was from fucking Mars. It's impressive that Ezra was able to train his voice up to be able to do that. At least, it's impressive to me. It's a relentless, energetic song that capitalizes on this admirably cheesy, big sound that the album kind of wraps up with - a sound, I should mention, that I love.
Ya Hey - ??????? At this point, I should mention that I still have yet to really decide if I can choose a favorite song from this album. Again, it's hard for me to think of any one song standing on its own. If I had to guess, though, I'd say that Ya Hey affects me in a deeper way than the rest of the music. The lyrics are the kind of vague bullshit that I loved on Contra. The piano is fantastic. The way Ezra jumps around with the notes is playful and great. The fucking HOOK is out of control, fed dutifully by this kind stomping drum and bass work. In our conversations about it, too, my roommate and I decided that this song fits the bill as one of those songs that has a really catchy hook, feeds it to you around four times gladly, and then gives you the summit of everything with a mega-hook at the end. This song also has a chorus section and chip tune, yet sounds like the catchiest number from a World Music collection. I could probably go on about this one forever. I don't even really want to end the paragraph, but I guess I have to.
Hudson - Though I have a hard time considering which of the songs is my favorite, I have no hard time understanding that Hudson is probably my least favorite. Better to say would be that I just don't really know what I make of it. It's very different from the rest of the album, tonally. It's a little bit too obscured for my tastes. Most of the time, I just find myself working through it to get to the last song on the album. All of that said, it still creeps its way into my head. So, your guess with this one is really as good - if not, better than mine. Oh, and this song has that zany Rostam-oboe. Rostamboe...
Young Lion - This song affected me much in the same way MGMT's Congratulations did when I first heard it - a curious little outro song that left me feeling really satisfied with the weird roller coaster I had just listened to. The song ends quicker than I'd like and promotes another listen of the full album. Plus, lyrically speaking, I really like how hopeful the song's message is. It appeals to my personal naivete, perhaps dangerously.
Give this album a listen, even if you feel like you've already come to a final decision about VW. For me, I've obviously given it a leg up with my predisposition of liking Vampire Weekend - not to mention, I think I was just waiting for a no-horseshit album like this for a long time. And that is to say that I feel like a lot of music nowadays is horseshit, even some of the stuff I really end up enjoying. This is the first album in a long time where I've done my part of listening and am rewarded for it by listening to lyrics that are pretty relevant to where I'm at in life, the kinds of things I think about when I go to think about them, and, basically, the hopes and doubts that are important to being nearly 30ish. Woof.
It's remarkably different than their self-titled, somewhat similar to Contra, but totally more realized than the both of them. More than that, it's caused me, personally, to go back to revisit the other two albums to enjoy things that I may have otherwise missed. Sure enough, I missed a lot.
Check it out.