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Vampire Weekend’s debut is innovative, essential

Observer Scene | Thursday, February 21, 2008

It’s decidedly rare for a band to release a debut album with a fully-realized sound, and newcomers Vampire Weekend have done exactly that. Instead of sounding like a new band struggling through growing pains, Vampire Weekend feels it knows exactly what its doing.

The band has mixed together such disparate genres as punk, ska, chamber pop and African rhythm into an accessible, fun, and unpretentious package. The band is having fun mixing and matching these styles. What has resulted is the most listenable indie rock record in a long time.

Each song on the album has a different feel, but they all fit into the established style that Vampire Weekend has created. The track “Mansard Roof” sustains an atypical rhythm for the entire song while string samples and guitar interludes flow in and out of the mix and the lead singer provides the singing style much akin to that of a Jamaican pop artist.

The song “M79” begins with a harpsichord and strings segment that sound much more fitting for a Wes Anderson film than anything else. “A-Punk” sounds like a song an accomplished Ska band would put out at the height of their powers.

In “Walcott,” perhaps the most impressive song of the album, the band combines everything they know into a sonic crescendo that leaves the listener absolutely breathless. The band already sounds like they’ve been making pop songs for years.

The lyrics could be called a weak point, but to be honest, it is not their goal to be deep lyricists. They have catchy lyrics that ultimately don’t mean much, but they fit well within the sound that the band has created.

“Vampire Weekend” sounds like the future of pop music but is also a product of the present. As the world gets smaller and more connected, it is only natural that our music will become more of an amalgamation of international styles.

Other countries have been influenced by popular American music for years. Hopefully Vampire Weekend will lead a new generation of applying world music genres to American popular rock.

But where Vampire Weekend succeeds the most is that the band used its innovation to make a fun, listenable record. Other innovators in the genre are almost too experimental and only appeal to avid audiophiles, but Vampire Weekend has a created a new sound that’s accessible to everyone.

This is the first release of the year that I can see myself listening to and enjoying months down the line. It’s the kind of music in which the 100th listen retains the novelty and energy of the first.

If you are at all interested in the future of independent pop music or just the future of good music in general, you owe it to yourself to give this album a try. Plus, you can tell your friends that you were a fan before they got big.

Contact Mychal Stanley at wstanley@nd.edu.