10.5.08

VAMPIRE WEEKEND

1.
MANSARD ROOF

I'm not actually sure what a Mansard Roof is (answers on a postcard, or alternatively I'll just wikipedia it after posting this). This song is a lot more interesting rhythmically than I remember, actually - especially in the second half. Maybe that's part of why I like this band, good percussion. I love percussion.

2.
OXFORD COMMA

Currently enjoying a prominent place on the Radio 1 playlist, I don't think this song will ever die. It's possibly the catchiest, or at least most immediate of their songs. It was the first one I latched onto, anyway, because I'm a geek and enjoy grammar references. I kept listening because... well, you've heard it, surely? What's not to like? It's so ridiculous and cute and this time it's the instruments other than the drums that are doing the work, although the drums are hardly slacking. I love how he wonders "why would you lie about anything at all?" because, really, what a question! Anyway, this is probably my second favourite on the album. Although things may change as I progress...

3.
A-PUNK

This might be catchier than Oxford Comma, actually. There's something about Ezra's voice that I really like. I keep seeing them getting compared to The Strokes, but to be honest I don't really see it. I think Ezra's voice might be a large reason why. It's just so different to Julian Casablanca's voice that the comparison just seems really, really stupid as far as I'm concerned. Also, Vampire Weekend seem much cleaner than The Strokes, like they wash regularly and drink lots of Orange Juice. This is a good song, I like the ending.

4.
CAPE COD KWASSA KWASSA

How silly is that title? But this is a great song, I love the Peter Gabriel references even though I barely know who he is (I just like my music filled with references, is that wrong?) and it feels kind of... louche. Like they could be playing this faster if they wanted to but it's kind of hot and sweaty and they're enjoying this pace at the moment, thank you very much. There's some lovely vocal stuff towards the end, before it moves back to the main song. Is your bed made? Are you ready?

5.
M79

I wasn't able to place the title of this one with a song, but now it's playing I've realised that I do know it. Not the most memorable title though, especially after the previous song. Not that I'm judging this album on the song titles. When Ezra's singing I think this song is all about him, but then there are some pretty gorgeous (if brief) backing vocals and the strings (are they strings? I'm TERRIBLE at recognising any instrument that isn't a drum) are pretty gorgeous too, flitting away in the background. There are the backing vocals again. Ezra's telling me not to be callous, how to dress myself, to sail away, sail away. If Johnny Foreigner made me want to stay on a crazy sinking ship then Vampire Weekend make me want to sit on a perfectly healthy boat and make it go a bit faster than perhaps it should, get away from here and go somewhere nicer with a group of cleanly dressed and well-meaning friends. Lovely.

6.
CAMPUS

"I see you, you're walking 'cross the campus" he sings, and he can't pretend he never wants to see her again because even when he's in class he's aware of how much he wants to. He's unable to proceed like he's meant to, he's young, in love and it's too hard. It's just such a lovely song, and filled with university references, which I'm enjoying at the moment because I'm currently looking forward to going to university this autumn. This isn't about campus really, though, or if it is it's just about a campus romance, sleeping outside in the summer, falling for someone and ending up in an awkward situation. The music, as ever, is pretty shimmery.

7.
BRYN

I know someone called Bryn. It's a nice Welsh name. There are some ridiculous lyrics here, fireflies sleeping in his heart, eyes like a seagull (really? Seriously, did I mishear or did he actually use this image?) but the general feeling is quite slow and passive. The lyrics seems to be about passivity, too, waiting for someone to come back to you. I guess that's sometimes the only option. Not one of the best on the album, but it's still nice.

8.
ONE (BLAKE'S GOT A NEW FACE)

Aw, listen to those backing vocals, they're even higher than Ezra's voice! Nice. This one is really cute, there are hints and percussion that almost sound like handclaps but are electronic I think, lyrics that seem slightly nonsensical on one close listen, a lovely drum part that gets repeated after the chorus lines, and I'm just made to think about how Vampire Weekend are largely good because they know how to use restraint. Ezra never overdoes it, there aren't too many backing vocals, he's not breathlessly singing for the whole of the track, all of the instruments are not piled on at any one time. It's very effective. Airy or something. Summery and happy andbright but never cramped or sweaty, they're like an open-top bus instead of a crammed Circle Line train.

9.
I STAND CORRECTED

I can never remember this one, but it's pleasant enough. There's an amazing percussion bit while he sings "one last time..." and he uses words like 'protocol' and he just wanted to take her hand and then the percussion gets even more awesome and he was wrong once but now he knows the truth, he's been corrected and it sounds a bit like he's running to something.

10.
WALCOTT

For ages I thought this was about Derek Walcott, which kinda excited me because... well I haven't actually read anything by him, but I've been meaning to and I really like songs about poets, generally. I'm pretty sure I've read it's about someone else though, gutted. I really love this one, anyway, even now that my delusions have been shattered - just listen to those strings! How his voice gets quieter and sinks into the mix a bit and the the drums kick back in and so does the voice and oh it's just so subtle and then when it gets louder it really connects. This is really well produced, I think. And the songs are great, I love the swearing here, love the geography, love the repetitive questions, and yes if I was Walcott I'd want to be out of Cape Cod, I'd want to be wherever Vampire Weekend were, to find them and dance gloriously along.

11.
THE KIDS DON'T STAND A CHANCE

I wondered if this would be usurped as my favourite song by Vampire Weekend. It hasn't. It's just too awesome. I tend to be a sucker for anything with a title like this anyway, and then it's paced just right, there's a lovely catchy guitar part and the instruments are all just so great. Ezra's voice sounds a bit rougher than usual, although not really rough at all, and when it gets really high with the driving beat beneath it you're just like well if the kids don't stand a chance then I'm still going to cheer them on, because why not? I may not be making much sense by now but it's true, I think. They let you think about it over the music, which isn't too fast but never slow enough to be annoying, just pretty and fading slightly and saying good luck, be warm and happy even if you're out of luck.

It's a very strong album. Again, not my favourite of the year, I'm too partial to my LC! and Johnny Foreigner's slightly manic shouting for that, but it's probably going to be one of my favourite albums of the summer. That's what it sounds like it's made for

1 comment:

jonathan said...

The Vampire Weekend album is lovely; I think what I like about it is that the band sound like they've excised stuff while developing songs, rather than making them bigger and louder and dumber. Oxford Comma is a lovely example of a song which clatters by on its bare bones, every instrument and sound focused and exact. That lilting african sounding guitar solo is the best and most considered moment in a pop record this year I think.

The only other band I can think of who do brevity and focus so well at the moment is the marvellous Wave Pictures, who come at it from a more rough and ready - but equally amazing - angle.

Anyway - cool review. Although surely as a grammar geek you must baulk at lines like "so if there's any other way / to spell the word / it's fine with me"? That makes me spit feathers, while I sway.