Archive for the ‘Vampire Weekend’ Category

june 2013SOUNDTRACK: VAMPIRE WEEKEND-“Blurred Lines” (2013).

vampblurRobin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is a huge hit (with a NSFW video).  And I gotta say that I find it insanely catchy, too.  It’s pretty irresistible.  So why not cover it?

Vampire Weekend’s new album is less formal than their first two–relaxing styles and adding a bunch more humor to their sound.  And they make a surprisingly good cover of this song.  Their version is quite faithful to the original (even mimicking the sound a lot).  But at the same time, the band is having a lot of fun with the song as you can tell primarily from the backing vocals.

You can tell hear it’s Vampire Weekend, but it also doesn’t quite sound like them–a neat trick.

Check out their cover (which is not a live concert track, but was recorded for BBC’s Live Lounge (so it sounds good)) at Stereogum.

[READ: July 15, 2013] “Firebugs”

This was, I think, the longest story I’ve seen published in The Walrus.

It begins with several paragraphs describing fire–physical, psychological, intense descriptions.  Since I didn’t realize the story was so long, I actually wondered if the whole story would be like that–if there were going to be no characters in it.  But there are, and quite a few.  And the story is focused on two of them.

Blake Kennedy Jr was a firebug as a kid.  Then he became a fireman (seems this is not so uncommon of a history for firemen and may stem from the desire to control fire).  After many good years, he was injured during training and had to get a desk job. Now he investigates suspicious fires.  Perhaps coincidentally, there was a rash of arson during the year he was born.  Those fires were technologically set–the arsonist used the spark from a telephone to ignite a can of gasoline. Of course, the killer would place the call when he was far enough away.  And he was never found.

This year’s arsonist’s is much more simple–a milk jug of gasoline with a homemade wick left on the front porch.  It is a slow burn, with the gasoline not exploding.  It’s actually the fumes that catch fire, not the liquid.  So, when the wick burns down, the whole thing doesn’t ignite until the milk jug melts and the gas spills out.

Blake is investigating the death of Detta, an older woman who tried to run out during the fire (the state of her feet must have been incredible, he determined). (more…)

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TVampire-Weekend-608x287his track is a bootleg-quality live recording of a new Vampire Weekend song which may or may not be on the new album.  The sound quality is lousy, but you can hear all of the elements of the song.

It sounds like Vampire Weekend, but a bit slower than I’m used to.  I love Vampire Weekend more than I should, and while I’m open to them changing, I’ll be bummed if they turn into a different band (as their version of  “Unbelievers” on Jimmy Kimmel suggested).

Every VW album deserves a ballad, but I hope it’s not all slow songs–VW gives you pep!

You can hear it here.

[READ: January 23, 2013] “Mayfly”

This story opens with a beautiful and sad image–thousands of butterflies flying across a street on their annual migration to Mexico.  And hundreds of them getting hit by cars–smashing into windshields and grilles.

James, the driver of the car is not happy about it, but hi co-pilot (in the car and soon in life) Molly is distraught.  She demands he pull over.  Which he does, only to see that tractor trailers and other cars are not pulling over and are similarly smashing into the butterflies.  Finally James says there’s nothing they can do, so they continue on through the carnage.

They arrive at their destination–James’ old friend Sam and his wife Jenny’s house.  Sam and Jenny have three kids, including a new baby.  And they weren’t expecting James until the next day, but they welcome James and Molly warmly.  They have dinner and drinks and a nice time catching up.  James has a business trip to Denver the next morning, but he’ll be back that night.  They agree that Molly can accompany him since she wanted to visit a friend in Denver.  James and Jenny stay home. (more…)

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Like The Flaming Lips, Vampire Weekend only got two songs in this airing (this makes sense as they only had two albums out at the time).  The two songs were “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “Oxford Comma” (Palladia faded out the “fuck” in “Oxford Comma” which always seems so subtle I don’t think I’ve ever heard it censored before). 

The band sounds great (something I’d wondered about as they seem like such a studio band–not that they use tricks or anything, but their music is so tight and sharp, it’s nice to know they can play it live, too).   Although their live show is not all that exciting visually and they seem kind of dwarfed on the giant stage. 

The real change comes from the vocals.  Not big changes, but the singer seems to having a little fun on “Cape Cod” but hitting some really high notes which are almost out of tune. 

It’s interesting that they chose to air two songs from their first album and none from their new album.  Regardless, theirs was a good set and I’d love to see more.

[READ: November 6, 2011] “Visions Shared”

A while back I read a few old articles that I got from JSTOR, the online archiving resource.  This month, I received some links to three new old articles that are available on JSTOR.  So, since it’s the holiday weekend, I thought it would be fun to mention them now.

I have been fascinated by synesthesia ever since I first heard of it a few years ago.  So when I saw that this article was not only about synesthesia, but was written from the point of view of an artist with it, I was really excited.  Sadly, while Steen may be a good artist (it is actually really hard to tell from the pictures in my print out–why are they black and white?) she is not a very compelling writer.

The most fascinating thing that I got out of this article was that by 2001, people were still not entirely sure of synesthesia and its effects on artists.  And that this is meant to be one of the first accounts from a synesthetic artist.  As such, she goes over a lot of basic groundwork and tries her best to explain exactly what is happening when she experiences these sensations.

The details are of course fascinating–she sees colors when she has certain experiences and acupuncture in particular seems to be a major source for her art.  In this respect I find her form of synesthesia less than satisfying because I am more interested in those who conflate words and sounds with colors, but beggars can’t be choosers.  Nevertheless, these acupuncture sessions have resulted in a number of art pieces.  In fact, she says she was painting these synesthetic colors long before she even knew she had synesthesia (her first painting, called “Orange Calipers” was actually synesthesia-inspired even though she didn’t “know” that at the time). (more…)

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Recently Palladia broadcast some highlights from the Austin City Limits Festival in 2010.  The bands they showed were Phish, The Flaming Lips, Vampire Weekend, Muse, LCD Soundsystem, Sonic Youth, Spoon and Slightly Stoopid.

There were so many good bands at this festival (why is Richard Thompson in such small print?) that I won’t really complain about the inclusion of Slightly Stoopid and LCD Soundsystem on this best of (but they could have included Band of Horses, Yeasayer, Broken Bells, Gogol Bordello (the list goes on!).  (I’d never heard of Slightly Stoopid and although I like LCD Soundsystem, live they were less than stellar).  Although I am glad they didn’t include the Eagles, thank you very much.

I’m trying to get actual set lists of these airings (they mentioned the song titles during the show but I didn’t write them down).

This was a 2-hour broadcast and it was really good.  If they re-air the episode, it’s worth watching.  The quality of the broadcast is excellent (even if the HD format does take up way too much space on a TiVo).

[READ: November 6, 2011] “Beer Cans: A Guide for the Archaeologist”

A while back I read a few old articles that I got from JSTOR, the online archiving resource.  This month, I received some links to three new old articles that are available on JSTOR.  So, since it’s the holiday weekend, I thought it would be fun to mention them now.

And to start of the holidays, I present you with this–a loving history of the beer can (for archaeologists).

This is a fairly fascinating look at the development of the beer can from 1935 to the present.  The selling point of the article is that archeologists could use beer cans to date the timeframe of an excavation.  I agree with this; however, since they only date back to 1935, I’m not entirely convinced of its long-term usefulness.

The problem with the article is that page two shows a chronological timeline.  This in itself is not a problem (although it is odd that it goes from present to 1935 instead of chronologically forward); the problem is that the article itself more or less sates exactly the same thing as the timeline.  For although this article is 20 pages long, there are tons of photos and very little in the way of text beyond what was in that (very thorough) time line.

Nevertheless, you can see the morphing of beer cans from ones that you had to pop open with a can opener to ones that finally had self opening cans.  See the switch from tin to aluminum, and even learn why the tops of cans are a little narrower than the sides (called a neck-in chime, it evidently saves a lot of money). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OKX: A Tribute to Ok Computer (2010).

OK Computer is one of the best records of the 90s.  Every time I listen to it I hear something new and interesting.  So, why on earth would anyone want to cover the whole thing?  And how could you possibly do justice to this multi-layered masterpiece?

I can’t answer the first question, but the second question is more or less answered by this tribute which was orchestrated by Stereogum.

The answer is by stripping down the music to its bare essentials.  When I first listened to the songs I was really puzzled by how you could take a such a complex album and make Doveman’s version of “Airbag,” which is sort of drums and pianos.  Or gosh, where would you even begin to tackle “Paranoid Android?”  Well Slaraffenland create a bizarre symphonic version that excises many things–in fact half of the lyrics are missing–and yet keeps elements that touch on the original.  But it’s an interesting version of the song and shows  a bizarre sense of creativity.  And that is more or less what this tribute does–it makes new versions of these songs.

Mobius Band make a kind of Police-sounding version of “Subterranean Homesick Alien.”  Again, it radically changes the song, making it a fast and driving song (although I don’t care for the repeated “Uptights” and “Outsides” during the verses).

Vampire Weekend, one of the few bands that I actually knew in this collection (and whom I really like) do a very interesting, stripped down version of “Exit Music, for a Film.  The “film” they make is a haunted one, with eerie keyboards.  Again, it is clearly that song, but it sounds very different (and quite different from what Vampire Weekend usually sound like).

“Let Down” (by David Bazan’s Black Cloud) and “Karma Police” (by John Vanderslice) work on a similar principle: more vocals and less music.  The music is very stripped down, but the vocals harmonize interestingly.  Perhaps the only track that is more interesting than the original is “Fitter Happier” by Samson Delonga.  The original is a processed computer voice, but this version is a real person, intoning the directives in a fun, impassioned way.  There’s also good sound effects.

Cold War Kids take the riotous “Electioneering” and simplify it, with drums and vocals only to start.  It’s hard to listen to this song without the utter noise of the original.  “Climbing Up the Walls” is one of the more manic songs on this collection, with some interesting vocals from The Twilight Sad.

There are two versions of “No Surprises” in this collection.  Interestingly, they are both by women-fronted bands, and both treat the song as a very delicate ballad.  Both versions are rather successful.  Marissa Nadler’s version (the one included in sequence) is a little slower and more yearning, while Northern State’s version (which is listed as a B-Side) is a little fuller and I think better for it.  My Brightest Diamond cover “Lucky.”  They do an interesting orchestral version–very spooky.

Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble (a side project of Chris Funk from The Decemberists) do a very weird electronic version of the song (with almost no lyrics).  It’s very processed and rather creepy (and the accompanying notes make it even more intriguing when you know what’s he doing).

The final B-side is “Polyethylene (Part 1 & 2),”  It’s a track from the Airbag single and it’s done by Chris Walla.  I don’t know this song very well (since it’s not on OK Computer), but it’s a weird one, that’s for sure.  This version is probably the most traditional sounding song of this collection: full guitars, normal sounding drums and only a slightly clipped singing voice (I don’t know what Walla normally sounds like).

So, In many ways this is a successful tribute album.  Nobody tries to duplicate the original and really no one tries to out-do it either.  These are all new versions taking aspects of the songs and running with them.  Obviously, I like the original better, but these are interesting covers.

[READ: November 5, 2011]  McSweeney’s #8

I had been reading all of the McSweeney’s issue starting from the beginning, but I had to take a breather.  I just resumed (and I have about ten left to go before I’ve read all of them).  This issue feels, retroactively like the final issue before McSweeney’s changed–one is tempted to say it has something to do with September 11th, but again, this is all retroactive speculation.  Of course, the introduction states that most of the work on this Issue was done between April and June of 2001, so  even though the publication date is 2002, it does stand as a pre 9/11 document.

But this issue is a wild creation–full of hoaxes and fakery and discussions of hoaxes and fakery but also with some seriousness thrown in–which makes for a fairly confusing issue and one that is rife with a kind of insider humor.

But there’s also a lot of non-fiction and interviews.  (The Believer’s first issue came out in March 2003, so it seems like maybe this was the last time they wanted to really inundate their books with anything other than fiction (Issue #9 has some non-fiction, but it’s by fiction writers).

This issue was also guest edited by Paul Maliszewski.  He offers a brief(ish) note to open the book, talking about his editing process and selection and about his black polydactyl cat.  Then he mentions finding a coupon in the phonebook for a painting class  which advertised “Learn to Paint Like the Old Masters” and he wonders which Old Masters people ask to be able to paint like–and there’s a fun little internal monologue about that.

The introduction then goes on to list the 100 stores that are the best places to find McSweeney’s.  There are many stores that I have heard of (I wonder what percentage still exist).  Sadly none were in New Jersey.

This issue also features lots of little cartoons from Marcel Dzama, of Canada. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VAMPIRE WEEKEND-KEXP performance & interview (2008)

While trolling around NPR’s Favorite Sessions Pages (an amazing place to look for live music!), I found this Vampire Weekend in-studio session from KEXP in Seattle (whose site features some amazing shows that you can listen to (but I don’t think any are downloadable).  This interview and performance was before the band’s debut album had come out (and they had only been playing live for about six months).

So the set has four songs.  All will appear on the debut album, but they sound a little different.  Perhaps it’s the in-studio sound recording or perhaps they play them a tad bit slower, but you can hear the words more clearly (which is cool) and some of the beats are sustained a bit longer.  It’s a wonderful set.

The interview is also fun.  The interviewer is pretty well gushing all over the band.  But he asks interesting questions–it’s amazing to be reminded just how young the guys are.  The DJ also asks about their influences and that’s kind of an interesting discussion, although thy don’t really admit to any specific influences (rats).

It’s a wonderful (if not too brief) session, and well worth a listen.

[READ: March 27, 2011] “The Man on the Island”

I really enjoyed the way this story was constructed. It went through several different teasers before settling down into what the story would ultimately be about.

It opens with a taxi driving through Bridgetown in Barbardos.  The passenger, a reporter from Canada, asks the driver, Calvin Braithwaite, to drive him all over the island on a special commission.  Braithwaite agrees, and they spend the reporter’s few days in Barbados together.  When the reporter leaves, he asks for Calvin’s email address and phone number, for possible follow-up.

This introduction leads us to assume that the story is about the reporter.  And also that Calvin is “the man on the island.” (more…)

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I absolutely loved Vampire Weekend’s debut album (and still do).  It was my favorite record of last summer and always makes me think of summer fun and hijinx.  Critics trotted out the “world/ethno/Paul Simon” vibe when discussing the album.  But I really didn’t hear it.  I mean, yes  I suppose it was there but the album felt more like a punky ska album of fun.

On this, their follow up, it’s as if they took all those critics to heart and decided to make the album that everyone was describing. This disc emphasizes all of the ethnic music sounds,  and downplays the guitars and more rock elements.  I was a little disappointed by this on the first listen or two.  However, subsequent listens showed me that the songwriting was still there and it was just as strong.

There’s still lots of rocking elements, it’s just that they are hidden under the other divergent influences.  But for the most part, the album is still bouncey and full of fun summer tunes.  There are three songs that slow down the pace, “Taxi Cab” and “Diplomat’s Son” (at 6 minutes, it’s a little long).  And the final song “I Think Ur a Contra” is a bit too divorced of beats (it works as an end to the disc, but I’d never listen to it on purpose).

The rest of the disc however, is very enjoyable, and I find that the 7 other songs work just as well as anything off the debut. “Horchata” is a delightfully fun world music treat (I hear Paul Simon, yes, although come on, Graceland came out 24 years ago!).  “White Sky” has delightfully catchy falsetto screams.  “Holiday” is practically classic ska and “Cousins” has a delightfully tricky guitar riff.

This feels like a band who has matured and experimented and yet not lost track of who they are.  I’m really looking forward to their next release.

[READ: Week of April 12, 2010]  2666 [pg 702-765]

Last week I concluded that

It almost seems as though Bolaño is saying that even Nazi Germany is better than Santa Teresa.

Oh how wrong I was.  Despite the fact that I found the bulk of this section enjoyable and fascinating (twisted and dark certainly, but fascinating nonetheless), the ending killed me.  The opening’s entire writers among writers, within writers, with communist party members and secret diaries was completely captivating.  And then it is all shattered by the reality of WWII. (more…)

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