The debut by Vampire Weekend took the world by storm with a bright mix of indie pop, and worldbeat of largely African origin. Producer and keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij (although he dabbled in many other instruments on the record), along with key songwriter and frontman Ezra Koenig put forth one of the most sonically diverse pop records of the 2000's. The blend of strings, keyboards, high-pitched guitars and the unique voice of Koenig put forth a sound not heard much in the mainstream since the smashing success of Paul Simon's Graceland, although by no means am I the first journalist to make that comparison. Nevertheless, the guys in Vampire Weekend absolutely deserve the comparison for what ought to be called Vampire Weekend's masterpiece. The group of former Columbia students found themselves in a relatively small assortment of indie rock artists to have only released albums to critical and fan acclaim. With that being said, this record still peaks its head above the rest of their grandiose discography.
The songs that hit the airwaves, A-Punk and Oxford Comma stuck the sounds of the record into the ears of the mainstream living on long after 2008. The bright and upbeat guitar starting A-Punk is about as iconic you can get for an indie rock song in the era right there with Last Nite by the Strokes. With subtle hints to New York life throughout the song, tracks like A-Punk have found a certain invaluable level of nostalgia for college kids, and young adults of the day. A-Punk is by no means the only song on the record that can get you movin' though with the whole album being pretty groovy and very danceable, with tracks like Walcott, and Campus coming to mind.
Sounds of African drums, shakers, strings, and all sorts of keyboards add a level of color to this record not heard enough in contemporary music. The albums closer The Kids Don't Stand a Chance features just about it all with Batmanglij taking the lead on the old timey harpischord sound injunction with sounds of a modern Mellotron. Compositionally, this song pretty much takes the cake here on the record with an incredibly respectable level of musicianship. The closer takes influence from many corners of the world from the European style old-timey keyboards, to the African percussive "stomp-like" backbeat, and of course the contemporary North American indie rock sound. Koenig had a nice little comment through his travels from London to India thinking about colonialism and the "connections between preppy culture and the native cultures of places like Africa and India" and the influence that had on the record particularly Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, with Kwassa Kwassa being a Congolese dance rhythm. There may be no more proper description of this album than a preppy take on worldbeat, and I mean that in all of the best ways.
Vampire Weekend deserved all of the hype this record received and fans each may have their own favorite whether that be Modern Vampires in the City, Father of the Bride, or Contra but at the end of the day, all the fans are going to call this a good album. Such clear and present chemistry in the young band, with no sounds being out of place and no weak tracks. An incredibly diverse album, yet somehow just as much so "New York", although maybe not to the extent Billy Joel is "New York", but apples and oranges. Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Time Magazine all have it pretty high in their assorted collections of accolades and rightfully so, as do we here at Melophobe. Props to the band, they hit the nail on the head with this record and exposed so much of us indie kids to sounds we otherwise would not have heard so much in the forefront of the indie-pop scene.