Louis Vuitton and Reggaeton: The World of Vampire Weekend

MP3: “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”

I’ll take wisdom from David Byre at any time. His glowing endorsement and the buzzy blog bits about a 4-song blue CDR by Williamsburg’s Vampire Weekend was a compelling subplot in last year’s indie rock universe. Their ascent almost mimicked the Strokes meteoric rise, nonchalantly stinking of privilege, with talking points that highlight the bands’ worldliness and educations — only that first EP tossed off by Vampire Weekend was The Modern Age recorded on a sailboat, filled with trinkets and baubles found on exotic travel, progressive and hopeful instead of grubby and indifferent. The gifted kids hit an ephemeral pocket of ecstatic pop bliss.

Their self-titled debut doesn’t add much, but what it does add shows the band is without gimmick. Ezra Koenig’s love of African guitar motifs and polyrhythms is far from waspy musical colonialism. He may have studied a myriad of ethno-musics at Columbia, but it never sounds like he’s stealing or even dependent on global blueprints. It’s telling Koenig is a huge fan of hip-hop, while the Paul Simon (and consequently Talking Heads) comparisons are granted, here, in widescreen, placed upon sparkling yet sterile backdrop, his organic pastiche of sound is engaging, refreshing, and constructed from many sources to build something completely new.

Sonically this record is even cleaner than their demo — the antithesis to 2008’s other important record (so far) Rip it Off — and on addition “M79” they add Victorian waltz through strings and harpsichord, their nerd-punk now gilded in regal sweeps. The same goes for “I Stand Corrected,” more in line with the halcyon lite-psych of the Zombies than their modern counterparts (Shins, Spoon, the National). Through good vibrations and breezy minimalism Vampire Weekend take chances those aforementioned bands never dare to touch, it’s an effortless combination of preppie formalism and cultural adventure that hopefully continues to flourish.

  • I thought this record sounded like if your neighbor, who is easily three years behind the times, is listening to the Strokes hella loud while you are watching Masterpiece Theater. I will be ballroom moshing when they play the Wexner.

  • fwiw, the Blue CD-R was actually 10 tracks, of which it ended up being nearly identical to the full length that is being released tomorrow except they took Boston off and added M79 and I Stand Corrected.

  • Cooper

    This album is AWESOME!!!

  • c dub ya

    Album sounds great and keeps getting better with each listening.

  • I heard that they are selling Bentleys as merch.

  • Nice review minus the nepotism. Vampire Weekend was great last summer.

  • Andrew

    Vampire Weekend’s problem is not that it borrows, but that it fails to compliment its application with a truly distinguishing signature. There’s simply too little depth and it comes across more as a cover band than anything else.

    On the first pass, I missed this, thinking that “Mansard Roof” was unique lyrically and that the rhythmic structure of “Oxford Comma” was interesting. Still, there was something missing. The second time through, “unique” and “interesting” yielded to “cute (in the college freshman sense)” and “gimmicky.” By the third run, I no longer cared. It was already stale.

    Then I stumbled upon “One (Blake’s Got a New Face,)” which I found to be flat-out lame. Minimalist synth, strained vocals, Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” wrapped in a Noughties New York foil and re-served. They even went so far as to place a sub-title in parentheses. That did it for me.

    So, if you’re throwing a frat party and need some peppy background noise, pick-up a copy. For anyone else, listen to the Amazon streams, catch a few YouTube clips and claim with voguish pride that you’ve heard them.