Arts and Entertainment

Album Review: Vampire Weekend

By Denebola
Published: September 2008

By Julia Sklar

What happens when you combine Afropop, chamber, alternative, reggae, 80′s new-wave, and rock? No, the world does not explode, nor do people cover their ears and run away at the horror.

Instead, you get Vampire Weekend, an inventive new band that owes much of its rising fame to an innovative combination of musical sounds.

Vampire Weekend is not a strange reference to the popular vampire series Twilight; it actually derives its name directly from an amateur short film of the same title made by lead singer Ezra Koenig in which he fights off masked vampires in an attempt to protect his virginity.

The four members of Vampire Weekend, Ezra Koenig (lead vocals, guitar), Rostam Batmanglij (keyboard, guitar, vocals), Chris Tomson (drums), and Chris Baio (bass guitar) met as students at Columbia University, but didn’t collaborate to create Vampire Weekend until after graduation.

The group cites African popular music and Western classical music as influences, describing its own style as “Upper West Side Soweto, a blend of New York and South Africa. These influences can also be found in the titles of some songs such as “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.

The band’s self-titled debut album, released January 2008, is chock full of incredible songs, none of which sound like each other, nor anything else you’ve ever heard. In fact, one of the most charming characteristics of the group is its trail-blazing style and unique, playful lyrics.

Vampire Weekend flaunts its geekiness with frequent references to things like the Holy Roman Empire and ion displacement. The group has even dedicated a full song to the grammatical employment of the Oxford comma.

New York City has also had a clear influence on many of their songs. In “M79, which stands for the cross-town bus, the Manhattan 79, Koenig sings, “I’ll fly across the park/Backseat on the 79.

Likewise in “A-Punk, Keonig mentions well-known places in New York, including the Hudson River and Morningside Heights (the location of Columbia University).

In 2007 the band briefly opened for The Shins in Europe. On October 18, Vampire Weekend will begin its own European tour, this time solo.

While not marked for its success in producing number-one hit singles, it is obvious that Vampire Weekend has gained popularity, recently appearing on The Late Show With David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and Saturday Night Live.

Its single “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa ranked number 67 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Songs of the Year, and its album ranked 17th  on the U.S. Billboard 200 and 15th across the pond in the UK.

Yes, Vampire Weekend seems to have it all: brilliant lyrics, intense musicality, vibrant talent, and an overall fantastic start in the music industry. All it needs now is “a famous girlfriend to help the band’s fortunes, Koenig jokes.

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