Arts and Entertainment

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Caught in the Net: Lots at stake with new album

When the Strokes emerged they set a template for indie bands arriving on a wave of hype only to find that the critics and the fans had moved on to the Next Big Thing by the time their second album arrived. Like the Strokes, Vampire Weekend (left) are a bunch of well-dressed, well-heeled New Yorkers. Their self-titled debut record, released in 2008, received both praise and reproach for their cherry-picking of Afro-pop influences and for their preppy style (personally, I liked how they looked and enjoyed about half of the album). Next week sees the release of Vampire Weekend's second LP, 'Contra' (reviewed opposite). For fans who can't wait until then, there has been much pre-release hype, some leaked songs and a great video for single "Cousins" (tinyurl.com/yfpojny). The record is currently streaming in full at tinyurl.com/2zgv8h. It follows in a similar vein to the first LP, a collection of charming pop songs but with an expanded palette of sounds and influences. While the band show signs of having staying power it will be interesting to see what reception 'Contra' gets from fans.

Album: The Whitefield Brothers, Earthology (Now-Again)

For this belated follow-up to their 2001 debut "In The Raw", the Munich-based Whitefield siblings Jan and Max have broadened their funk-soul approach with a range of African influences, albeit heavier, big-band flavours than those employed by Vampire Weekend.

Album: Vampire Weekend, Contra (XL)

It's hard to listen to Vampire Weekend's second album without being struck by the resemblance to Paul Simon's Graceland, in a way which was never as obvious on their debut.

Caught in the Net - Norah chases a hip audience

The music of Norah Jones is often maligned by more discerning (or is that discriminating?) music critics: milquetoast pop jazz for the masses, they cry.

The Barometer: Julian Casablancas; Lil Wayne, Sleigh Bells; Amerie; Tom Waits; Ryan Bingham & T-Bone Burnett; Vampire Weekend

Julian Casablancas I Wish It Was Christmas Today

The Strokes' frontman takes a foray into the dangerous world of the Christmas single with this sparky cover of a song that was originally 'Saturday Night Live' parody.

Caught in the net: 'Ambling Alp' – a new peak

In recent years there has been a wealth of David Byrne-inspired US bands, such as TV on the Radio, Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, MGMT and Vampire Weekend fusing experimentation, art-rock, a head for great pop tunes, and the occasional African musical inflection. Though in the case of the Vampire Weekend the influence is more Paul Simon than Mr Byrne. Yeasayer (left) are another band that can be lobbed into this grouping, though they haven't quite recieved the same amount of acclaim or notice, despite their 2007 debut album 'All Hour Cymbals' being well received and containing at least one perfect pop song in "2080". Now they return with their second album 'Odd Blood', released on 10 February. The first single from it is "Ambling Alp". It doesn't drastically alter their style from previous efforts, but has a more stripped-back, electro feel. While not scaling the heights of "2080", the song is worth a listen nonetheless (and on repeat listens it grew on me), and it's a free download from Yeasayer's website – yeasayer.net.

Bombay Bicycle Club, Heaven, London

A couple of years ago, Bombay Bicycle Club were at the forefront of the underage band scene, alongside their school peers Cajun Dance Party. Still just 19 years old – the band only finished their A-Levels last year – it's apparent tonight that while their devoted young fans who have grown up alongside them are still present, their audience has expanded to include all ages.

Caught in the Net: Stars to get Beck on track

Emerging fresh from last year's enjoyable 'Modern Guilt' record, Beck (left) has kick-started a revamp of his website, http://beck.com, with an interesting new project. Called "Record Club", the new endeavour sees Beck set himself the not inconsiderable task of recording, with the help of various musicians, cover versions of entire albums in a single day's studio session – with no prior rehearsals or planning.

Album: Here We Go Magic, Here We Go Magic (Western Vinyl)

Now trading as one-man band Here We Go Magic, Luke Temple has broadened his approach to accommodate a range of effects and influences that add intriguing new slants to his songs.

Santogold: 'I didn't expect this'

Coldplay and Kanye West. Jay-Z and David Byrne. Björk and Pharrell Williams. Not names often bracketed together, but as Santogold tells Gavin Cumine, her eclectism is what made the last year so awesome... and tiring

Vampire Weekend, Forum, London

A little over an hour into another ebullient performance by the most refreshing new band of the year, Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig revealed that this was the longest concert they had ever given. A few minutes later it was all over, but it's doubtful whether anyone in the audience felt short-changed.

Vampire Weekend, Electric Ballroom, London

When was the last time a lead singer took to the stage in a yellow V-necked sweater with sleeves pushed up to the elbows? This was Ezra Koenig, Columbia University graduate and 23-year-old Vampire Weekend frontman, and he looked as though he'd just stepped out of a tutorial and was about to settle down on the faculty lawn to do some serious background reading.

Glastonbury line-up revealed

The line-up for the 2008 Glastonbury Festival has been revealed ahead of schedule. The headliners on the Pyramid Stage are confirmed as Kings of Leon, Jay-Z and The Verve while other notable inclusions appearing at this year's festival in Somerset are Kate Nash, The Raconteurs, Massive Attack and Leonard Cohen.

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