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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Larry,

    Great post and great song. I never thought about the Graceland comparison, but I'll definitely listen for that next time I'm listening to them. Thanks again, also, for letting us housesit for you. I hope you had a wonderful long weekend and I definitely had a great time with Sparky and watching Netflix.

    Looking forward to the next musical suggestion,