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

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

'WAKIN ON A PRETTY DAZE' IS KURT VILE'S HOLISTIC SUMMER JOURNEY

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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)

GIVE YOURSELF OVER TO SLOW WARM DEATH

Want to hear the music your friends are making in basements, playing in dirty bars and infecting the internet with? That’s the mood you’ll find on Slow Warm Death's new, self-titled LP. Every track is bleeding with loneliness, angst, homicidal rage and aching regret, not to say that it's not a fun record, too. There are definitely some mosh-worthy tracks alongside the ones you could kill yourself to. This is the music of terrible acid trips, days spent skipping work to take painkillers and mornings drinking leftover, half-empty 40s.

Stream Slow Warm Death below:

NOW I’M A BELIEVER

This band is one to watch, I’m telling you, my Spidey Sense is tingling. Believers are an impressive and enigmatic new rock band whose EP is a complex cacophony of sound that trembles and shudders with riotous energy while also being remarkably precise and emotional. I get a bit of Fleet Foxes from them at times (without the harmonies), with some Kings of Leon (pre hearing “Use Somebody” for the 9,000,000th time) and Future Islands thrown in for good measure.

I caught their first New York show EVER at Glasslands Gallery in Williamsburg last night and it was so worth the long, rain soaked walk from the L train. The band played their EP in it’s entirety and their sound, while fantastic on record, was so much more alive and addictive in person. Listen to their EP below:

Believers also just premiered the music video for “Finder” on Stereogum, watch the Andrew Droz Palermo-directed clip below:

I will be keeping a very close eye on these guys, who are very studly in addition to being wildly talented. How log do you think it will be until Pitchfork ruins them?

-MARK DOMMU

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.

-MARK DOMMU

-PHOTOS BY MATT OLIVE / NIGHT URCHIN (see more in our gallery)

COEXIST-ING WITH THE XX

The xx have taken the moody, confessional, atmospheric indie pop sound that gripped the world on their 2009 debut, xx, and built on it for their new release, Coexist. This new album is a musical daydream, full of distinctly English emotion. Romy Madley Croft and Olly Sim croon back-and-forth about love and longing while Jamie xx, who’s become a master producer in his own right, builds their ghostly soundscape.

Coexist has The xx perfecting their sound while adding a few new elements: steel drums, two-step and dubstep beats, a bit of rock guitar. As wonderfully intimate as their debut, Coexist is an album that celebrates life’s quiet and fleeting moments and the beauty they inspire.

BEST TRACKS / ”Chained”, “Angels”, “Reunion”, “Missing”

-MARK DOMMU