Tag Archives: vampire weekend

I used to be neck-deep in music. I’d go to two to three shows a week, had a neverending pile of CDs by my desk, download a bunch of albums in one go. When the magazine I worked for died, there was no reason for me to keep current on music for work, which meant I had more time to absorb everything I was listening to.

And I started traveling a lot, which meant that my iPod truly became my best friend. I was in Eastern Europe in March, Seattle, Alaska and Los Angeles in July, Chico, Nevada and Sebastopol in August, drove through six states in November, and ended up in Southern California, then Manila, Siargao and Batangas this month. With so many unfamiliar beds, rooms, and landscapes surrounding me, the only way I truly felt at home and comfortable was by listening to music that I knew and was familiar.

And that became the best of my 2008.

Bon Iver

Bon Iver, “For Emma, Forever Ago” – Justin Vernon wrote this album in the Wisconsin woods, two winters ago, broken hearted and alone. I wrote about him last January, when I lived in Milwaukee. I saw him play a show in a smoky club when it was zero degrees out, and then for the rest of that cold, snowy season, would put myself to sleep with this album. During winter my toes were always cold, but at least Vernon’s falsetto soothed me, made me feel like the cold didn’t matter, that, lying in my bed, I would always be okay.

Vampire Weekend, “Vampire Weekend” – It was catchy, it was fun, it was happy. It was different, you know? It wasn’t all that hipster electronica drudgery. Its songs’ untrendy elements made it oh-so-geeky and lovable. So even though I was done with the album by May, I still would say it was one of 2008’s best.

Mates of State, “Re-Arrange Us” –
This was definitely a grower. I loved it the first time I heard it in May, then promptly forgot about it. In November I drove 2500 miles from Milwaukee to California, and during the most tiring periods of the trip, listened to this album on repeat. It always made me feel better. (How unsubliminal can I get? The single “Get Better” is definitely one of the most uplifting songs I know, though.) I felt like it was the most accessible of all the Mates of State albums — not so many crazy song breaks or confusing chord progressions, still saccharinely pop but not commercially so.

Lykke Li, “Youth Novel”

Hype! Hype! Hype! This list is full of ultra-hyped artists, but so what? A ‘best of’ list isn’t just about what lasted more than 3 plays on your iPod; it’s also about songs that define the best moments of the year. All summer, “Little Bit” was ringing  in my ears. The rest of Lykke Li’s album — bubbling to the brim with her perfect pop tone and bouncing beats — did not disappoint. I love dancey songs on pseudo-relationships as much as I love dancing around my pseudo-relationships.

Michael Franti, “All Rebel Rockers”

Mommy Su loves Michael Franti. As in, laglag panty love. When I went up to northern California to visit her, she brought me to his annual rally/concert, “Power to the Peaceful” at Golden Gate Park. I was an instant convert. Dreadlocks and tiedye and stinky hippies aside, this album has everything you want for a party. Plus a conscience. So it’s the musical equivalent to getting stoned all night and making sure people don’t drive home while under the influence.

TV on the Radio, “Dear Science”

There are albums that you love because the bands’ previous album was so perfect you have residual emotion for their newer work, even though it’s not so great. Think Ryan Adams, or Stars, or YYYs. I think “Dear Science” is one of these albums. On the other hand, it took me more than a year to get into “Return to Cookie Mountain.” So this TVOTR album might even grow on me some more.

robyn by carrie
Robyn, “Robyn”

It was instant: I heard “Cobrastyle,” I downloaded the album, and have been in love with this Swedish popstar ever since. My usual problem with pop albums is that they have no staying power; but every song in Robyn’s re-debut has been a constant in every dance playlist of the year I’ve made.

Fleet Foxes, “Fleet Foxes”

This Seattle-based band was borne out of a kind of obscure band I loved from a few years ago, Crystal Skulls. But while Crystal Skulls was proggy and electronic, Fleet Foxes incorporates every catchy folk music -device to keep the listeners’ attention. From three part harmonies and simple guitar chords, to allusions to meadowlarks and fields, the band brings you back to the Beach Boys and Crosby Stills Nash and Young without being total copycats. It’s old school, but refreshingly so.
Foals, “Antidotes”

How I like Foals’ “Antidotes” is the same way I have residual love for succeeding albums of bands whose work I really enjoy. I love Foals because I loved Bloc Party and Battles. While they’re not of that caliber, I wanted something similar sounding but new. Foals incorporates melodic prog elements to their music, and there’s enough punk energy in it to make the album worthwhile.

I was kind of nervous about watching the sold-out Vampire Weekend show at Turner Hall Ballroom on Saturday, mostly because I didn’t want them to let me down. There’s a lot of hype, backlash, and clothing commentary involved in the band’s coverage so far, but the bottom line is their debut is one of the strongest albums of 2008 so far. Who can blame the band for the mass hysteria surrounding them, ironic or otherwise?

Luckily, the Turner Hall audience didn’t seem to care about hipster hype or backlash. The audience wasn’t even made up of hipsters: It was mostly teenagers in the crowd, chaperoned by their parents. There was a buzz in the air that was heady and reminded me of high school/parish fairs, where audience members would randomly burst into choruses of “Oxford Comma” or “One.” Opener Yacht probably benefited from that anticipation greatly — the crowd was much more receptive because they wanted to let off steam. (BTW, I’m sure everyone knows this already, but it’s still super cool that Yacht’s Jona Bechtolt designed the MacBook Air manila envelope case with his girlfriend.)

With hardly any beards, horn-rimmed glasses or argyle in attendance, it seemed natural that Ezra Koenig and company could give the crowd the show they wanted — energetic, hit-filled, dance-y, with a little bit of a sing-along here and there. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was fun.

The first half (“Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” “Mansard Roof,” “Campus”) sounded rougher than the second. By the time Koenig introduced “A Punk” with “If you have to dance to one of our songs, this would be it,” EVERYONE was going wild — and you could tell that no one cared if there were awkward breaks between songs, or Koenig’s voice wasn’t in top form (hey, they’ve been touring a while), or the stage banter was random and unfunny (they want a Brewers shirt, it’s their first time in Milwaukee, Turner Hall is the nicest place they’ve played, yadda yadda yadda).

The boys seemed really nice and polite, and requisitely, the crowd danced through every single bit of it. They also played a new song in the same “West Side Soweto”-style, which wasn’t a marked departure from their hits.

So here’s the verdict: Watching Vampire Weekend at Turner Hall was like going on a first date with a cute boy you’ve always had a faraway crush on. You don’t have that much to talk about (mostly because you’ve already Googled him to death), so there are a lot of uncomfortable silences. And in the end, you just make out so it’s not a total loss, and everyone ends up going home a sweaty mess of fun.

Oh, an in case you were wondering: There wasn’t a single sweater on stage, either. Instead, keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij was wearing an I Heart NY shirt. Unironically, I presumed.

1. Vampire Weekend -  I was whining to a friend about the lousy Coachella lineup (this may be the first one I’ll miss in five years), and he said: “I have two words for you: Vampire Weekend.” So I looked them up and couldn’t stop listening to it. Shades of the Clash, some afro-beat influences, lots of poppy, happy ska. I love when savvy Ivy Leaguers (the quartet all met at Columbia) make world-inspired music, talk about punctuation marks and name check Peter Gabriel, Benetton and Louis Vuitton in the same song. Their debut album comes out (officially) next week on the 28th or the 29th, depending on where you live. Buy it, steal it, whatever — just make sure it’s within your aural vicinity.

2. Bon Iver @ Mad Planet – Increasingly I am getting lamer and lamer with posting show reports on time. Hey — we’re short-staffed. It’s cold. I park six blocks away from my office. I was made for tropical climates, I have an excuse for everything.

But there’s no denying that last week’s Bon Iver set, though short, was the best local show I’ve been to in a while. Worth braving zero-degree weather for — and since Mad Planet was packed, I’m glad a lot of people felt the same way.

He came onstage with only two other people — another guitarist (who looked like he was 15) and a drummer, but the whole band had percussion instruments at their feet — which they used. Justin Vernon did spare, emotional renderings of songs like “Skinny Love” and “For Emma.” I was slightly worried that his songs, which are delicately beautiful and perfect for alone-time listening, wouldn’t be great in a live setting. But they were.

As usual, openers Collection of Colonies of Bees were incredible; I’m not sure, but I thought I heard them play their new album “Birds” from beginning to end. I’m thinking of driving to Eau Claire on Feb. 10 to watch him again.

3. Bird and the Bee @ Schuba’s – It was a dream come true to finally, finally see this band live. The LA duo, led by singer Inara George, was so cute on stage in her 60’s tent dress and blue tights that audiences kept oohing and awwing throughout the show. She said, “I feel like a kitten. Or a unicorn.”  Their electro-bossa-pop songs were perfection live, as delicate and delicious as creme brulee. They also played new songs, like “Birthday” which is up on MySpace. George promised “something really cute” for thier last song — and even bet an audience member that they’d definitely say ‘aww’ over it. It was their rendition of “How Deep Is Your Love” by the BeeGees. AWWWWWW!

I miss them already! (They are, BTW, also performing at Coachella.)

4. While at Present Music at the Milwaukee Art Museum, I was struck by how lame it was that Fashion Ninja’s pseudo-runway show used the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Date With a Night” and “Rich” as background music. If you’re trying to impress people with new, interesting fashion forward pieces (hey, I loved the clothes), why would you date your clothes as old by using music that was trendy in 2003? Ecchh. It just seemed so backwards to me. There’s so much cool new music around, you barely even have to look.
5. This weekend I am going out of town so I am missing rollerderby tomorrow and Louis XIV on Sunday (also at Coachella this year).  I am so boo. You guys gotta let me know how it goes.