Vampire Weekend a Modern Classic

9 Jan

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Modern Vampires of the City — the third CD in a three-part trilogy as described in interviews by lead singer/songwriter, Ezra Koenig — was a May 2013 release that got overlooked by some.

KZSU — the Stanford University station where I DJ on Friday mornings at 9 a.m. Pacific Time — elected not to add it to its new releases collection because a reviewing committee deemed it to be “not worthy.”  Online reviewing website, Sputnick Music, asserted “…it’s just another Vampire Weekend album, except the songs are less catchy and sterile this time around.”

Those reviewers were badly mistaken. The CD is making list after list as one of the top CDs of 2013.

From my first listen, Modern Vampires of the City became one of my favorites of the year. The album is filled with smart, lyrically driven alternative/indie rock tracks written by Columbia English major Koenig.

The songs have lots of layers musically and are loaded with hooks — in many ways reminiscent of another New York-based artist — musical legend, Paul Simon. The CD opens with “Obvious Bicycle,” an easygoing shuffle of a song. This is familiar Vampire Weekend faire — which may have misled those reviewers who thought that this was the “same old thing.“ Rather, its simplicity serves as the entré into the rich new material contained in the 12-song set — with choir-like vocals that encourage us to “Listen up — don’t wait.”

Next is “Unbelievers,” a great up-tempo toe-tapper that must be the latest single from the collection —judging by the airplay it’s now receiving. The song chugs ahead with endless energy like a train on a track — enhanced with inviting harmonies and endless hooks.

“Diane Young” introduces us to a key theme on this record, as the maturing band examines topics such as aging and death. The title is at once a reference to a Manhattan-based retail outlet for anti-aging and beauty care products and a play on the phrase “dyin’ young.”

“Everlasting Arms” sounds a LOT like a Paul Simon track, with heartfelt vocals and synth tones backed by slightly tribal drums. And the intricate rhythm and bass line, synth chords and ringing piano of “Ya Hey,” echoing through New York City’s steel-and-glass canyons, contribute to another memorable tune.

In fact, the hardest thing is to find a track that doesn’t work at some level — perhaps “Hudson” is the only song in the collection that I don’t much care for.

If you haven’t heard Modern Vampires yet, it’s definitely worth buying. If you have, give it another listen. There’s a good chance that like Pitchfork, PopMatters, Rolling Stones, Slant, and Under the Radar, it may well become your top indie CD of 2013.

Listen to the Time Traveler countdown of the Top 35 Indie Rock, Pop and Folk CDs of 2013 on KZSU Stanford — Friday, January 10th at 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on 90.1 FM (SF Bay Area only) or streaming at kzsulive.stanford.edu.

 

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