To attempt to categorize Vampire Weekend may be as difficult as tracing all of their samples and allusions. Consistently discounted as suburbanite Ivy Leaguers disconnected from the realities of their influences in Afrobeat and Afropop, Vampire Weekend, former denizens of the Columbia University basement scene, were catapulted to national festival headliner status with their debut LP Vampire Weekend. Marked by exceedingly intelligent lyrics pointing towards grammatical structure (I give a fuck about an Oxford Comma) and Shakespeare and boasting a unique fusion of jazz, roots rock, and African beats never before heard by much of the listening public, the album proved to contain a depth extending beyond their massively popular single, “A-Punk”.
Their follow-up, Contra, sought to expand their meticulously engineered sounds into more electronically articulated territories: the simplicity of “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” replaced with the synth driven layers of “Giving Up the Gun”. Modern Vampires of the City rounds out their intentional trilogy of albums and serves as the maturation of the musical style that has become inseparable from Vampire Weekend.
The lead singles of Modern Vampires of City, “Step” and “Diane Young” are a statement alone in their choice as singles, which they deservedly attained. “Step” features arpeggiated harpsichord plucking trading off with piano and soft synths, which together gently hold Ezra Koenig’s lilting voice aloft. “Diane Young” comes swinging right off of “Step” and harks back to the Elvis Presley, Dick Dale, and rockabilly of early rock and roll. Modern Vampires of the City asserts itself as an album, following the in the more recent footsteps of Arcade Fire, and in doing so the illogical step from “Step” to “Diane Young” could suddenly be nothing else. “Unbelievers” bolsters the A-side argument for a smoothed out sound for Vampire Weekend, residing beautifully among rolling drums and organs. The B-sides wind down into the melancholic view of apocalyptic New York City in “Hudson”, but not before “Finger Back” strikes an upbeat ode to the bands previous albums. The barreling “Worship You”finds Koenig vomiting words rapid fire. Modern Vampires of the City hinges on on the deliciously understated and deceptively complex “Hannah Hunt”, which serves as the mightily important fulcrum of the album and is the culmination of all previous Vampire Weekend attempts to find their perfect sound.
Modern Vampires of the City has its highlights and singles, but it does not lack the connective tissue that doomed previous efforts as vehicles for standouts. The album boasts its connective pieces and realizes the body as a whole smooth and interconnected being. Modern Vampires of the City is the album that dispels the qualms of critics and establishes Vampire Weekend’s supremacy amongst the innovators of indie pop.
Muse Music 2013
Yep. That’s right. the magazine has finally arrived. The digital iteration will be arriving shortly. Launch party tonight at the Outing Club House with performances by contributing artists. Be there.
As I listened to Pale Green Ghosts for the first time, I felt as though my head was being squeezed between folk and a weird place. John Grant has written a record of transcendent folk drawn down by haunting vocals and lyrical darkness. From the disarming cover art to the opening riffs of Grimes-esque synths of the title track, Pale Green Ghosts is a sonic tug-of-war erupting from Grant’s tumultuous personal life.
Grant is a complex and seemingly towering figure who is not begging to be listened to, but is rather self-obsessed and finding solace in extremely personal storytelling. Highlights include the bass drum-punctuated “Black Belt”, with its pop sensibilities, borrowing vocal melodies from what can only be described as late-’90s female R&B; meanwhile, “GMF” is synth-boosted folk featuring a voice streaming down from godly heights. Pale Green Ghosts straddles genres and leaps to the top of my 2013 best albums list.
We run in the sand even though they yell. It’s coarse under our feet. I like how it feels between my toes, especially when it’s been baking in the sun all day long. I hate when the sun goes down the sand cools off and we have to wait for it to bake all over again. Now, I’m wet. Gianna dumped her pail of water on me. Michael laughs and starts pelting sand at me. It coats my face and gets lost in my hair as the sticky salt water soaks into my skin. I like it though. I feel like I’m taking the beach with me.
They’re yelling again, all three of them. Pop’s sitting on the couch and doesn’t get involved. Uncle David blames Aunt Marianne. Aunt Marianne blames Mom. They’re just blaming without much rhyme or reason. I’m not supposed to be awake or be out in the hallway, especially when they’re fighting. They keep talking about the house being too small. If it’s too small, then how come we all fit? Pop’s got his arms folded, his expression set in stone. He sees me, I know he does. He keeps staring right at me, but he never gives me away. Guilty. I walk back to my trundle bed and burrow deep under the sheets. Even with Gianna snoring and Deanna mumbling nonsense in the top bunk, I still hear them blaming each other in the living room.
We all have to wipe our feet before we get in the car. It’s a new car, shiny and dark red. My mom says it’s foreign, but I didn’t think cars came from anywhere else but the store or your garage. My aunt inspects our feet each and every time we get in and out of the car for any sand we may have missed. I don’t like cleaning my feet and losing the feeling of the sand. I always do my best to miss a spot and pray she doesn’t see it. She always catches me and grabs her rough cotton towel and smacks it off. Today, I miss a small area of my left ankle. She catches me. She’s not happy about it. I quietly take my seat in the back on the sticky new leather seats.
We all shower together in our bathing suits. The soap gets in my eyes and I can never see anyway so I don’t understand the reason we have to wear bathing suits. The shower’s outside. It’s probably my favorite part of summer, showering outside, because you can play the radio and sing along and everyone hears you. There’s always sand in the shower too. No matter how long you let it run, even if you don’t stand under it, the sand never completely washes away. Michael always winds up taking his bathing suit off after the shower. He’s too small to understand it’s only ok to be naked in the shower and not outside. I guess the outside shower confuses him.
Pop died before spring started. We all cried until we were sick. We may have even cried more than we did when Grandma died because now we didn’t have either one of them around. Mom and Uncle David were probably the saddest. Their eyes were all red and puffy. They had cried so much they just couldn’t cry anymore. Pop left each of them some of the house in his will. Gianna said Uncle David owned more of the house, so I wouldn’t come as much anymore. I hit her. I told her Pop left them each half, fair and square. Pop was always fair. After I hit her, I walked away and cried by myself. I wish I could’ve hit her harder.
Uncle David knocked down the house. It’s gone. There’re strangers building a new one. It’s ugly and huge. The color looks all wrong. It doesn’t match any of the other houses on the street. There’s no outside shower. My trundle bed is gone. Deanna, Gianna, and Michael each have their own bedroom. I don’t have one. He said we’d all have more room now and that we could come down longer than before. My mom didn’t know he was going to knock it down. I can tell because she looks surprised when we drive up. She takes me to the beach, just me and her. We looked for all sorts of shells and went swimming together. I run around and build small sandcastles. The big ones always crumble. Sandcastles aren’t meant to be so big. I wipe the sand off my feet carefully. I don’t like it anymore. It gets in the way and once you get it on you, it’s pretty hard to get rid of. Even though I tried to get it off, I still get sand in the car.
Do not pity the dead, Harry.
I can smell the sin on your breath.
We are nearsighted men
We are the enlightened men
Standing firm together
Glasses fogged with clichés. My Lord!
Our redundant trumpeting, when
We raise our trunks
Is as loud and obnoxious
As an elephant in a Church
Or a flag touching the ground
In our dark living rooms.
Declarations without independence, faith without love,
Ignorant intelligence, marching without movement;
Those who have seen
With open eyes the glitter of the golden rule
Pity us—sort of—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the nearsighted men
The blind men.
Blind eyes that condemn contacts
Piercing me through my television, vision
Of Fox news nightly:
There, the eyes are
20-20 and scanning a red map
Of metaphorical victory
So close, yet so offensively far
Like an aging Mormon.
Let me be no nearer
To this backwards balloted illusion
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Religion, patriotism, individual responsibility
Behaving as the enlightened behave
Not that potential victory
Of the blind party.
This is the Father’s land
This is the American’s land
Here the blind people’s walking sticks
Are raised, here they whack
Each other with incredible ignorance
Under the guise of an obvious statement.
Is it like this
In real democracies
At the hour when our countrymen
Demand it most desperately
Hands that would fly
From shakes to anti-bacterial soap.
The eyes are not here
There is no vision here
In this country of withered windbags
In this ignorant party
The swallowed Adam’s apple of our lost integrity
In this the last of conventions
We nod gravely at each other
And speak but avoid conversation
Together pulling our yoke backward across the prairie
We chance change
Contact lenses, making contact
Seeing what’s in front of us
The hope only
Of self-blinded men.
We pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the United States of America
And to the Republic, for which it stands
One nation, under God, indivisible…
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the tax
And the relief
The heart beats
We the people
Between the conception
And the life
Between the mother
And her rights
The heart beats
We are all equal
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the law
And the love
Between the ideal
And the reality
The heart beats
We the people
For America is
For America is the land of the
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a ballot.
after “the hollow men”
Get ready for a run 300 copies, a full length CD, and absolutely wonderful lit/art/music.
Once upon a time, there were two sisters who formed a band named P.S. Eliot. After meeting some success, the sisters decided that the end of their time together was fast approaching. The sisters, Allison and Katie Crutchfield, disbanded and formed their own projects. Allison gathered some bandmates and breathed new life into the punk of the early ’90s, thus the rip-roaring guitars and in-your-face style of Swearin’, whose eponymous LP was tops on my list of debut albums last year. After wearing a small canyon out of Swearin’s digital grooves, I discovered the other sister, Katie, and her project, Waxahatchee. American Weekend is the epitome of lo-fi. Recorded in the span of a week, when confined to her parent’s home in Alabama one snowy week, it features Katie’s hideously recorded vocals scratching over her lonely guitar. Carnal beauty echoes from every oscillation of the speakers.
Waxahatchee returns with Cerulean Salt. Gone are the grammaphonic sound, lone guitar and vocals. Preferring the acoustics of her Philadelphia basement—where she lives with her sister and sister’s Swearin’ bandmates—to her familial home, Crutchfield utilizes these damp spaces to retain the pervasive intimacy of American Weekend. She enlists those very Swearin’ bandmates for percussion and bass work. Cerulean Salt begins to follow the trail of Swearin’ as the album evolves, picking up the tempo as Crutchfield wails on the guitar and vocals on tracks like “Misery in Dispute”. The fuzzed-out guitars are approached from such an appreciation of every crunchy strum that these songs carry the atmosphere of folk even when edging into more punkish territories.
This is not an album to be missed. My favorite of 2013 so far.