The cover of Vampire Weekend’s third album, Modern Vampires Of The City, is a photo of New York City smog in 1966. In an interview with Pitchfork, guitarist/pianist Rostam Batmanglij related the image to our current environmental problems asking, “What does this say about the future? Where are we going?”
Which begs the question: where is Vampire Weekend’s sound going, for that matter? On their latest release, the New York indie rock quartet molds an eclectic masterpiece with styles and influences from around the world. The band branches off from their ska and African inspired roots with Asian flutes on the energetic, organ filled “Unbelievers” and jumpy tribal mandolins on “Worship You”. They steer back to America with “Sarah Hunt”, an E major ballad that is heavily inspired by The Walkmen, idols of Vampire Weekend while they were students at Columbia University.
Compared to their self-titled debut and follow-up Contra, Modern Vampires Of The City explores more genres and has a more palatial sound, perhaps due to the fact that production duties were handled by Batmanglij (who produced the band’s first two releases) and Ariel Rechtshaid (who’s worked with a range of musicians, including Cass McCombs, Plain White T’s, and Usher).
No matter how different Vampire Weekend’s sound is from one album to the next, they always stay energetic and upbeat. Of their three releases, Modern Vampires Of The City is the most experimental and the most sophisticated.
- Eli Zeger
‘WAKIN ON A PRETTY DAZE’ IS KURT VILE’S HOLISTIC SUMMER JOURNEY
Singer/songwriter Kurt Vile has been compared to Bob Dylan and is regarded by top tier critics as being one of today’s great American songwriters. His lush breakthrough album, Smoke Ring For My Halo, gained him widespread critical praise and landed him on many 2011 “Best Of” lists.
Vile’s new record, Wakin On A Pretty Daze, has many links to Smoke Ring For My Halo. For example, Kurt took the lyric “There is one true love” from “Baby’s Arms” (off Smoke Ring) and pasted it into the new “Snowflakes Are Dancing”. This happens again musically with another new song “Goldtone”, which is just like the Smoke Ring title track, but converted into a major key and made longer.
Wakin differs from his last album thanks to songs that are longer and trippier, but that flow by quickly and beautifully. With Smoke Ring, there were tracks that stood out individually, but Wakin is more of a holistic journey. The record is like summer. It begins with the nine minute opus “Wakin On A Pretty Day”. The song rises out of slumber to the bright sunshine, fresh scents, and soothing warmth of summer. There’s also relationship drama on songs like “Never Run Away” and “Pure Pain”. He talks about trying to back off partying and smoking on the folky “Too Hard”. The summer then ends with the August sunset of the grand “Goldtone”.
Kurt tries some new things that he’s not used to on the new record, like getting jammy on “Shame Chamber” which combines the grooviness of Widespread Panic and the breeziness of Lambchop. He also explores synthesizers and otherworldly hums on “Air Bud” and “Was All Talk”.
Wakin On A Pretty Daze shows a brilliant side of Kurt Vile’s creativity. Press play, imagine a sunny countryside, and ready yourself for a glorious adventure.
Key Tracks: “Wakin On A Pretty Daze”, “Air Bud”, “Goldtone”
- Eli Zeger (See more at his blog)
ZULU PEARLS KEEP IT COOL ON ‘NO HEROES NO HONEYMOONS’
We have a new album for you to obsess over: last week, Zulu Pearls released their second LP, entitled, No Heroes No Honeymoons. After lead singer, Zach Van Hoozer moved to Berlin, a transformation happened within the band. This alternative, dance craze, endorphin releasing, groove spewing group from D.C. has found a sound that can keep an audience on their toes. Now Berlin based, Van Hoozer and company are back in the U.S. to breaking down walls and barriers in the Northeast with an appearance at NYC’s famed CMJ Festival.
No Heroes No Honeymoons is honing in on what contemporary popular rock music may need – the continuation of heavily distorted guitars and the reincarnation of riff filled, soloing electric pianos, which was once a great phenomena. The record begins with “Keep it Cool,” a beautiful surf rock, arrhythmic dream sequence. As No Heroes No Honeymoons continues, the Pearls urge listeners to get naked and start a revolution. The second song, “Whatever You Want,” has an identifiable flamenco and reggae feel that you can’t help but thank the Gods of music that Sting is no longer music.
The smoldering crash and percussion of cymbals in songs like “Play the Hits” and “Magic Tricks” expose a delicate side of Zulu Pearls that is reminiscent of a matured M. Ward. NHNH has an excellent sense of tension and release and slowly introduces to the world the ambiguity of the word “whatever.”
However, at times, NHNH lacks a recognizable emotional arch, but Van Hoozer’s nonchalant vocal style, which is a cross between the mysterious Devendra Banhart and the growl of Dan Auerbach, makes up for it. Zulu Pearls present themselves as “a rotating clique of international vagabonds.” They have a truly unique, multi-genre sound that should not be overlooked.
If history has taught us anything, you don’t want to miss a band with such a strong melodic and rhythmic sensibility. Check them out while they are in New York this October:
10/16/12 - Pianos, NYC, “Banners” Party
10/17/12 - Pianos, NYC, Tell All Your Friends CMJ Showcase
10/19/12 - Bowery Electric, NYC, Cantora CMJ Showcase
And you can stream the album below, yay for the Interweb!
AMANDA PALMER’S DELICIOUSLY EVIL THEATRE
According to Amanda Palmer, Theatre Is Evil. But oh, what wonderfully evil theatre she’s making.
It’s been four years since Amanda Fucking Palmer released her first solo record, the fantastically crafted Who Killed Amanda Palmer. In the time since she’s married Neil Gaiman, become the craftiest social-media user on the Interweb and written an orgasmically brilliant new record. Theatre Is Evil is Palmer at her best, full of pounding keyboard melodies and clever lyrics, bellowing choruses and dramatically blaring orchestral arrangements.
Palmer’s new record has all of the pop-punk-cabaret that the former Dresden Dolls singer’s fans have come to expect with some new sounds, like the static electricity of “Smile (Pictures or it Didn’t Happen)” and “Bottomfeeder”. The album’s themes, according to Palmer, can be boiled down to “pain and dancing.”
The most amazing part of Theatre Is Evil, and it’s hard to pick one, is the fact that it was entirely fan-funded. Over 24,000 Palmer devotees helped the artists raise tover $1 million to record, promote and tour the album. In a world where record labels and media outlets drive content this feels like salvation.
We had the chance to attend AFP’s album release show at Webster Hall in NYC last week and it was a truly incredible night. Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra played for almost three hours to a maniacally devoted crowd. AFP was full of such wonderful, boundless energy and every person there was so fucking happy to help her celebrate the success of the project. The album is so dynamic and theatrical live and AFP just fucking killed it. It’s hard to narrow down the show’s best moments, but a few would be:
- During a rendition of the Dresden Dolls’ “Missed Me”, Palmer and the GTO kept changing instruments, everyone playing everything. Watching AFP wail on the drums…amazing.
- For Theatre Is Evil track “Bottomfeeder”, Palmer strutted onto the stage wearing a jacket with a huge cape attached that covered most fo the audience when she dived into it and crowd-surfed. it looked amazing from the balcony.
- Before a moving rendition of Who Killed Amanda Palmer track “Astronaut”, Palmer took out a box filled with messages from the audience in which they’d revealed their darkest secrets. It was intense and emotional.
- For her encore, AFP closed with the Dresden Dolls’ “Girl Anachronism” and WKAP track “Leeds United”. Everyone lost their minds.
Amanda Palmer knows how to put on a show. An evil one.