Friday Favorite: Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend – Diplomat’s Son

In The Merry Merry Month of … January

Eels, End Times

Yeah, it’s been a while since we Merry Merry Month-ed, but January started off 2010 right with some fantastic releases. The obvious, the one everyone talked about, the one that had people gathered around their website waiting for a hint of what was to come is, of course, Vampire Weekend. Kicking of the new year, Contra didn’t quite knock my socks off on the first listen. Sure, “Horchata” was catchy-as-hell, but I wondered if perhaps their sound could really only sustain them for a short time. But it’s grown on me over the few weeks and, even without anything like the triple threat of “Oxford Comma”, “A Punk”, and “Mansford Roof”, I still feel it’s a worthy follow-up to their debut. No big surprises – it’s fun and insanely catchy in pretty much exactly the way I’d expected – but songs like “White Sky” easily remind us why we all liked them so much in the first place.

Laura VeirsJuly Flame is perhaps a little less spunky, but still a pleasure to listen to. Here’s where I should admit that I’ve never actually heard a full Laura Veirs album before. I’ve got one EP, and she’s high on that mental list of artists I keep meaning to finally check out properly, but, shamefully, I still haven’t gotten to it. So it is that July Flame is the first one and, as a result, I have nothing to compare this to. I can’t say if it lives up to past releases or if she’s changed her ways since the last; I can only say that “Summer Is The Champion” and “Wide-Eyed, Legless” (below) were my immediate favorites and I expect July Flame to soundtrack many thoughtful moods in the future.

Laura Veirs – Wide-Eyed, Legless

Now, there are a few artists, few enough that I could probably count them on one hand, that blow away the competition almost by default. Unless something tragic happens, other releases don’t stand a change against theirs. One of that few is the lovely Mark Oliver Everett and his Eels. Assuming he doesn’t totally go off the deep end and release, say, a gansta rap album*, his albums are probably always going to outshine the rest. Last year’s Hombre Lobo had bite; January’s End Times is all stunning heartache and loss. It bluntly describes, as Everett himself put it, “the state of the desperate times we live in. The bottom line-ness of it all. The end of common decency. The loss of caring about doing a good job. These are tough times. Who can you trust? Walter Cronkite is just a ghost.” Add to that a renewed sense of personal hurt and aloneness and you have the recipe for some truly depressing listening. So how is it that Eels albums never quite are? There always seems to be a tiny spark of hope, of defiance, underneath it all that keeps it from sinking into total despair. Everett’s talent lies in his ability to be almost painfully honest in his lyrics, while managing to find beauty in even the deepest sadness.

Eels – Mansions Of Los Feliz

*Though, honestly, I’d totally listen to a Eels gangsta rap album at least once. It would be interesting, if nothing else.

As for singles, it seems that January ’10 had some greatness to offer in that department as well.

These New Puritans – We Want War

This song gives me goosebumps. It starts with a slow drum and gradually turns into a dark force with a choir, middle eastern-inspired percussion and creepy-inspired creepiness. It has the same effect as The Imperial Death March. Seriously, if ever I decide to become a super villain I’d choose this song for my theme. It feels menacing, like the harbinger of evil. Blows my mind.

Lightspeed Champion – Marlene

I first heard this song in concert two years ago (which by the way, was freaking amazing) and I remember looking for it afterwards, because it made such an instant impact. Dev warned the crowd that it was a bit different from his usual stuff. The crowd went nuts, so then he said he wondered whether to be worried that his other songs didn’t get quite the same booming response. To be honest, I’ll listen to anything he dishes out, but “Marlene” truly is a remarkable single with an harder edge and even some psychedelic influences. If you haven’t heard it yet, listen and love, my friend.

Oh No Ono – Helplessly Young (mp3)

The nasal, high-pitched vocals sound like that guy from Empire Of The Sun. I mean, exactly like him! Wait, it’s not the same guy, is it? Uncanny. Anyway, this sounds like a wonderfully, sixties rock-inspired pop song. It’s really sunny and playful and for some reason it made me wish for the warm summer days that ended with a slushy that turned my tongue blue. But I think that might be a personal thing.

Plastiscines – Bitch

Les Plastiscines – following Meredith Brooks before them, aren’t trying to change the world with their earth shattering lyricism, they’re just announcing their superb B-I-T-C-H status with some rowdy Rawk ‘n Roll! “Bitch” has an uncomplicated message, if you can call it that, and mild shock value – well if you’re Amish and consider Avril’s musical endeavors “punk”, but it’s a whole lot of fun.

Stairs To Korea – All Of Your Friends (Dreamtrack Session)

Oh my goodness, I love this song – from the electronic bleeps to the sweeping guitar. Its lyrics tap into the essence of human emotions without getting sickeningly sentimental. It’s the work of one beardy man with an amazing understanding how to play with words and melody to create something that’ll make a lasting impression. I know it’s not fair to compare, but I’ve listened to them in succession and couldn’t help but note his lyrics make the Plastiscines seem very silly indeed, still fun but so very silly.

OK Go – This Too Shall Pass

So sweet. I forgot that despite the somewhat gimmicky feel of their quirky, memorable videos, OK Go make some really great pop songs as well. This one is ridiculously catchy, upsweeping and uplifting and features a whole dang marching band. It will turn your mood from Tim Burton to Roberto Begnini in a heartbeat. AND it has a quirky, memorable video.

Jay Z, Rihanna, Bono & The Edge – Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)

The proceeds of this single go to relief funds for Haiti. It’s a great cause, a great single and a wonderful way to spend 99 cents.

Must Hear: Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend

Hearing the Vampire Weekend EP last year was so exciting to me, I’ve been literally counting down the days until their debut full-length release. It’s finally here and I have fallen head-over-heels in love with it. The most unique sound I’ve heard in quite some time, their blend of African influence, indie pop, and post-punk is delicious like a sno-cone on a hot summer’s day. But, c’mon, you already know what they sound like – you just want to know if it’s worth a portion of your hard-earned paycheck. You bet your ass it is. I’m on my fourth listen since yesterday and it just keeps getting better. Get it at your favorite record shop or, if you want some instant enjoyment (and I know you do), right here at emusic.

   Vampire Weekend – The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance

Backtracking 100b

For this week’s Backtrack Day, I thought I’d do a little backtracking into 100b itself and check up on some bands that we’ve written about (mainly in New Band Day posts) in the past. Some of them have gone on to make fantastic albums (1990s, Guillemots, Jamie T, Hot Club De Paris, Jeremy Warmsley) and some went straight onto my favorites-of-all-time list (Pop Levi, The Bicycles, Cold War Kids, The Long Blondes). But what about those bands that we haven’t heard much about since we first wrote about? I did a little searchin’ and found out …

Give Half To The Monkey is one of my very favorite New Band Day finds but, sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much to find out about their current activities. There’s not too much updating going on over at MonkeySpace, and Google coughs up nothing about these guys. I can’t even find an mp3 to offer you all, but if you head over to Bebo, they’ve got loads of songs streaming. I sure hope Give Half To The Monkey is still around and doing what they do, because they are seriously great.

Unfortunately, there’s no big news for Kitty, Daisy and Lewis either. They appear to be playing live regularly, but there’s no future releases or recording news listed anywhere. I guess we shouldn’t be too hard on them, they are still in school after all. Have a listen to this, one of their few released songs, and hope for something new soon.

   Kitty, Daisy and Lewis – Mean Son Of A Gun

Vampire Weekend, on the other hand, are cruising right along. Their debut EP was released over the summer and it didn’t take long for them to get all signed up with XL Recordings. Their first single with XL, “Mansard Roof” will be out on October 22nd and their debut album is scheduled for January 2008.

   Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma

Shout Magic, another favorite of mine, apparently had some line-up changes recently. But they’ve still managed to record another EP, which will be available soon. I assume it will be up for download from their website like the first one (which is still there, by the way, so grab it before they come to their senses) – I’ll be keeping a lookout for it.

   Shout Magic – Branch Davidians

The Deadly Syndrome is actually a band Tamboosh found, back in 100b’s earliest days, and I ended up loving them as well. Their debut album, The Ortolan will be out on September 11th on Dim Mak. I’m pretty excited about that – I think I’ll make a Mustachio to keep me busy while I wait.

   The Deadly Syndrome – Emily Paints

It looks like there’s some exciting stuff on the way, no?

New Band Day: Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend

Everybody’s talking about Vampire Weekend and for good reason, they’re flippin’ awesome. I should be fair and admit that aDawgg told me about them first but I stole them for New Band Day because of that previously mentioned awesomeness. A little googling showed me that Stereogum has already picked them as a Band To Watch and their description of Vampire Weekend as a brainy blend of Paul Simon’s Graceland and Talking Heads is perfect. The music is wonderfully charming and fun and feels like summer and I seriously can’t wait until we can hear some more of it. I’m already thinking about how great it must sound live – maybe in a park, as the sun is just about to set. They seem to be unsigned (not for long, I’m sure) but are releasing some songs digitally and on 7″ sometime this month (I haven’t been able to find a specific date yet). In the meantime, listen to two tracks on their official site and a couple more on their vampirespace.