It is a rare thing in music to come across an album that manages to be both familiar yet exotic, brief yet perfectly formed, intellectual yet instantly accessible; and to achieve this with a debut album is rarer still. Vampire Weekend, freshly plucked from a sleepy Columbia University campus, have created something astounding, infused with a staggering range of styles that ripple and crackle with charm and vibrancy.
The band are already making waves, exporting their interpretation of the US campus-rock genre all over the world. From rumbling internet phenomenon to appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman and the round table of the ever-mercurial Jools Holland, Vampire Weekend are beginning to carve a place for themselves in the upper echelons of the musical hierarchy, offering a burst of originality in what can feel like a jaded record industry.
Not a single note is wasted. The alchemy required to meld shades of punk, pop and classical with a sprinkling of refreshing Africana to create their musical gold is stunning. Short, sharp shocks of pop-rock brilliance instantly grab you, and as the last track scampers toward its final note, leave you wanting more.
When the wonderfully monikered Ezra Koenig sings, his voice resonates with a host of emotions, as harpsichord music drifts gently alongside the rapid snare drumming more reminiscent of a barrack yard than an indie album. Nowhere is the range of the album better illustrated than in the passage from the current single, "A-Punk", through to "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa". The former oozes with punk-like verve, yet is stripped, for the most part, at least, to little more than a rapid drum beat and furious guitar play. This gives way, quite abruptly, to the gentle rhythms of the latter, encompassing the almost whimsical feel of African music while avoiding any hint of imitation. From here, we are treated once more to the harpsichord and violins that form the intro of the next track, "M79". And so it continues, the first-time listener unable to second-guess the nature of each successive track.
It is often said that the fusion of wildly different musical styles produces albums that, once heard, become something of a curate's egg. In this case, all the tracks, jostling for your attention with their cocktail of influences, are excellent, managing to be both adventurous and finely crafted, as well as being blessed with buckets of charisma. Vampire Weekend, therefore, are to be applauded for an eclectic and hugely enjoyable addition to any record collection.
James Clarke, teaching assistant, Aylesbury
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