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scene

No new Vampire Weekend album, discover the “DEEP CUTS”

| Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Ruby Le

Listening to a new, full-length Vampire Weekend album, absorbing it in its entirety, is a treat that their fans have only been able to experience three times — in 2008, 2010 and 2013.

Sure, three albums in just over ten years isn’t anything the Beatles would be impressed with. But three is better than one. And a band that is still together with all of its members alive is better than a broken-up one with dead members. One more album is coming soon, and many more could come in the foreseeable future.

Despite only releasing three studio albums, Vampire Weekend has released quite a few songs that act as a fourth, eclectic album on their own — their Japanese B-Sides and iTunes Bonus Tracks.

Believe it or not, in 2008, 2010 and 2013, when “Vampire Weekend,” “Contra” and “Modern Vampires of the City” were each respectively released, people still paid for their music. Pirating and streaming were around, but they were in their infancies and often weren’t worth the 99 cents that each song cost.

In order to persuade their American fans to stray away from piracy and to persuade their Japanese fans to purchase records domestically, Vampire Weekend would include these Japanese B-Sides and iTunes Bonus Tracks on their albums — tracks that were significantly harder to find anywhere other than iTunes or in Japan.

Their debut, self-titled album, “Vampire Weekend,” contains two of these Japanese bonus tracks — “Ladies of Cambridge” and “Arrows.” Their second album, “Contra,” contains two iTunes bonus tracks — “Giant” and “California English: Part 2” — while also containing two Japanese bonus tracks — “Ottoman” and “Giant.” And their third studio album, “Modern Vampires of the City,” contains two remixes of the tracks “Ya Hey” and “Unbelievers” for Japanese audiences.

Historically, many of these tracks have been unavailable on streaming services, iTunes and American-sold records. Within the past few months, however, they have been uploaded to streaming services by Vampire Weekend on the band-created playlist “DEEP CUTS.”

And they truly were “DEEP CUTS” up to this point. If you knew any of the B-Sides or bonus tracks, you also knew the songs created by lead singer Ezra Koenig’s high school band, L’Homme Run. “California English: Part 2” isn’t something you stumble upon. It’s something you find to fill the void that five years of no new music has created.

Vampire Weekend’s bonus tracks aren’t notable solely because of their novelty, however. Each track is an individualistic piece of music-making that fits into the theme of the album to which it quasi-belongs.

“Arrows” is a track that screams the pretentious danceability that made their first album so likable. It overflows with the opulent string and woodwind instruments while being grounded in its grainy, GarageBand production.

“California English: Part 2” is the natural conclusion to its techno, nonsensical predecessor. “Half the Barbaras, Half the Rhondas” is a lyric that requires more than scant knowledge of The Beach Boys’ discography. But every lyric in the album “Contra” requires knowledge of something — the bonus tracks certainly didn’t deviate from that theme.

“Ottoman” acts similarly to “California English: Part 2.” It’s an ode to a piece of furniture and an Anatolian demonym. It’s not a song anyone asked for or one that makes any sense. But it sounds good, and it brings light to a very underrated piece of furniture — just as “Oxford Comma” brought light to a very underrated form of punctuation.

“DEEP CUTS,” however, does contain one track that is perhaps “deeper” than the rest. It was never included on any Vampire Weekend album and is seldom performed live. It is the song “Jonathan Low” — a staple of the album “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack).”

“Jonathan Low” is arguably the standout of the “DEEP CUTS.” It was released the same year as their second album “Contra,” yet it is significantly different from any track on it — both sonically and lyrically.

It’s less airy than a “Contra” track should be, and although its lyrics make just as little sense, they tell a concrete story — something no other track on the album does. Maybe that’s because it was made to be played while the scenes of a film were playing out in the background. Maybe not. Regardless, it sounds radically different and takes you on a narrative journey that no other Vampire Weekend album can give you — up to this point, at least.

But B-Sides and bonus tracks, as mentioned earlier, are just consolation. Space to fill the void that only a complete album really can fill. They may not be albums, but they do a darn good job of filling that space.

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