Few debut albums arrive as fully realized as Vampire Weekend’s. The band formed on the campus of Columbia University and burst onto the late-2000s indie-rock scene looking provocatively preppy, singing songs that skewered privilege and colonialism using exactly the sort of worldly references and upper-crusty anecdotes that come with an Ivy League degree. That delicious contradiction also ran through Vampire Weekend’s sound—a fizzy mix of baroque flourish and African pop they winkingly dubbed Upper West Side Soweto. To some, the album felt like a bracingly exuberant sequel to Paul Simon’s Graceland, but others heard the aural embodiment of a Wes Anderson film: both twee and bold, incredibly specific and broadly charming, with everything in its right place. But as much as it reads like a collegiate concept LP, Vampire Weekend remains funny, affecting, bright, and—above all—catchy.
Take the opening pair of songs, one named after a fancy architectural feature and the other after a piece of punctuation. And yet, “Mansard Roof,” with its swirling strings, clashing cymbals, and tumbling guitars, is the perfect vehicle for Ezra Koenig’s honeyed melodies. And “Oxford Comma” is just fun—a rich-kid roast that bops along to one of Rostam Batmanglij’s many antique keyboards and includes an earnest shout-out to Lil Jon’s “Get Low.” The Atlanta MC sent the band a case of his crunk juice as thanks, but similar favors were presumably not returned by the Dalai Lama or other name-checked folks, like Koenig’s professorial “Campus” crush or the blue-blooded girl who loves blue-collar rhythms on “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.”
No matter: The album’s colorful pop smarts lifted the group from the blogosphere to the mainstream and helped make indie simultaneously more sophisticated and honest-to-god fun.
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
One (Blake’s Got a New Face)
I Stand Corrected
The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance
11 Songs, 34 Minutes
January 29, 2008
℗ 2008 Vampire Weekend Inc., under exclusive licence to XL Recordings