Monday, October 25, 2010

Vampire Weekend's Hypnotic Rhythms

Earlier this year my wife, also a teacher, had a few first-year teachers at our house for a meeting.  When the Louis Armstrong CD she was playing finished, I decided to put on Vampire Weekend.  As the opening notes started playing, one of the young teachers exclaimed, "I LOVE Vampire Weekend!"

One of the earliest celebrated albums of 2010 has turned out to be one of my favorites.  Contra, by Vampire Weekend, creates an incredibly rich and rhythmic blend of sounds, rhythms, and lyrics.  Its many influences include current American, European, Asian, and African music.  Furthermore, Vampire Weekend music screams, "Dance." While enjoying VampireWeekend's music, I hear echoes of  Paul Simon's Graceland album one minute, pop Indian music the next, and at other times echoes of the Talking Heads.

Vampire Weekend's music is complex.  Frequently, it provides multiple competing yet amazingly complementary beats in harmonious coexistence. Listen to the second half of "Horchata," the opening song from Contra, to hear examples.  This rich sound is created by four musicians: Ezra Koenig, Chris Baio, Rostam Batmanglij, and Chris Tomson  They describe their sound as "Upper West Side Soweto."

The group's members met in 2006 while finishing their studies at Columbia University; their first gigs were held at school literary societies and parties.  Parts of their first EPs were recorded in Columbia dorm rooms.  The title of the band comes from a movie that Koenig was working on while at Columbia.

Vampire Weekend's lyrics are best described as quirky, playful, and just plain fun.  Here is the first verse of "Cousins":

You found a sweater on the ocean floor
They're going to find it if you didn't close the door
You and the smart ones sit outside of their site
In a house on a street they wouldn't park on at night...

As you enjoy the the  video for "Cousins," make note of the delightful and unexpected ringing of bells at the end of the song!

Once you become acquainted with Vampire Weekend, you should catch them live to see how these four musicians put the numerous sounds in their albums into their music.  I saw them recently in Houston, the night before they performed at Austin City Limits.  When attending live shows I attempt to stand as close to the sound board so I can to hear the best sound mix possible.  However, at the Vampire Weekend show I found myself standing a good distance away from the sound board.  Regardless, the mix was great and Vampire Weekend put on a terrific show.  The more I listen to Vampire Weekend the more I discover in their music.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

No ghosts in this jukebox-Jukebox the Ghost

The call comes to the Jukebox the Ghost camp from the David Letterman show. They want to know if the band can play for the Late Show in less than 24 hours. The band has wrapped up production of their new CD and is scattered around the East Coast. However you don’t pass up this opportunity to perform and reach so many people on national television. They agree and all get to New York for the taping. They are excited to perform the single “Schizophrenia” from their about to be released CD Everything Under The Sun. They get to the studio early in the morning; do a few rehearsals, and then the final tape. When I asked them if they were nervous they said that it all happened so fast they didn’t get a chance to really think about it too much until after the final taping. The performance was great and really helped the CD sales a few days later when the CD was released.

The first time I heard the song “Hold It In” on WTMD radio I was hooked. It has the most infectious beat and rhythm of any song I have heard in years. Listening to this song should make you an immediate fan. I give fair warning in that you won’t be able to get it out of your head. It will be a great introduction to this amazing and fun band.

Ben Thornewell (piano/vocals), Tommy Siegel(guitar/vocals), and Jesse Kristin(drums) formed the band in 2004 while they were all at George Washington University in D.C. Even though they all come from different musical backgrounds, they hit it off immediately with a sound they call “piano rock with indie pop”. After college they decided to see what they could do musically. They put out their first album “Let Live and Let Ghost” on their own in 2008. Jukebox has toured constantly and opened for many bands including Ben Folds, Guster, and Barenaked Ladies. They have gotten a lot of notice and recently signed with the label Yep Rock who just released the new CD of great tunes this month.
Here is their Letterman video of the single “Schizophrenia”

I have had the pleasure of working the merch table for many of their shows and getting to know them as people. They are all really kind and considerate guys who deserve everything they are getting. I couldn’t be happier for them and I hope that you will listen to them and support them as they come to your area.