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
Monomania, the sixth album from art punk artisans Deerhunter, is what it would sound like if My Bloody Valentine lent their Boss pedals and temperamental vibes to The Byrds. Unlike their drum machine and saxophone experiments on 2010’s Halcyon Digest, Monomania is all about dirty riffs and lead singer Bradford Cox’s raw swagger.
While the track “Leather Jacket II” has the musty aroma of trashed Levi’s fresh from the Salvation Army, Deerhunter gets rootsy on the country jig “Pensacola” and the bluesy “Dream Captain”. On the album’s title track, Cox rages over gritty guitar lines and booming drums.
Key Tracks: “T.H.M.”, “Sleepwalking, “Monomania”
- Eli Zeger
WEIRD ASS TRACKS: “A DANCING SHELL”
Wild Nothing’s (AKA Jack Tatum) label, Captured Tracks, has apparently been hypnotizing all their bands into thinking that they’re living in the eighties. Some of their releases (Beach Fossils’ “Careless”, Mac Demarco’s “Freaking Out The Neighborhood”, and DIIV’s “How Long Have You Known?”) sound like hits you’d find on Rhino’s Just Can’t Get Enough box set.
“A Dancing Shell” is the dreamy first single off of Wild Nothing’s upcoming EP Empty State. The swirling track features laid-back spoken verses, like on Ian Dury’s “Hit Me With your Rhythm Stick”, while the slow-motion choruses sound like Spandau Ballet’s “True” overdosed on Lunesta.
I interpreted the lyrics as being from the point of view of a prostitute when Tatum as the narrator whispers, “Saw myself fresh out at the moon. And I sold myself so I can be a big star. And I’ll be your monkey every night. If it makes you love me, watch me now.” A little over halfway through the song, a grand, aquatically-processed saxophone solo breaks out over the hazy synthesizers and straight-up drum grooves.
The video compiles a bunch of trippy animated art pieces that closely resemble the album cover of XTC’s classic Drums and Wires.
I’ve been in love with Wild Nothing’s ethereal new wave sound since I first heard “Shadow” and I can’t wait for the new EP.
- Eli Zeger
Loving this sweet and sassy new collaboration between Marina and the Diamonds and Charli XCX, two of our favorite Brit-pop weirdos. “Just Desserts” is the perfect, revenge-fueled in-between of their respective styles, and those seeing them when they tour together (in the US) this summer will probably get to see it live!
‘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)