NPR : Fresh Air

Filed Under:

Vampire Weekend Comes Of Age In 'The City'

Play associated audio

The New York City band Vampire Weekend has carved out a sense of immaculate melancholy for our era as surely as Steely Dan once did for Upstate New York in the '70s. Characterized most immediately by the earnest, concise, sometimes surprisingly expansive vocals of Ezra Koenig, Vampire Weekend makes atmospheric music. The atmosphere calls attention to confusion, doubt and a feeling of purposeful aimlessness, all presented within exceedingly well-crafted choruses and precisely metered lyrics.

Throughout the new Modern Vampires of the City, there are nods and bows — but never full commitments — to religion and a spiritual life. The singer asks to be held "in your everlasting arms"; he fetishizes a crucified or satanic "red right hand" in a song called "Worship You"; the band deploys the Latin phrase for "to God"; Koenig gets a thrill, in "Unbelievers," that only an invocation of the unearthly harmony of the Everly Brothers can do proper justice.

Ultimately, however, the quest pursued on Modern Vampires of the City is not a religious one so much as a venture that Vampire Weekend makes to musically invoke the grandeur of pop. The big, booming drum sound that predominates here, the jittery and sometimes organ-like keyboards — these are sounds rooted in the comforts of pop history that provide Vampire Weekend with its secular faith. Modern Vampires finds sustenance in invoking songs ranging from Desmond Dekker's "Israelites" to The Rolling Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown." It finds release in periodic explosions of rock 'n' roll.

Like the New York-based, Whit Stillman-directed films that have frequently seemed like the cinematic predecessors to Vampire Weekend's post-prep-school music, these guys make eloquent, plaintive noise about the fellowship of people sharing their breakdowns with each other — and exchanging precisely worded jokes about the vulgar challenges of modern life. They don't find their redemption in communal worship so much as they find it in the company of clever yet fundamentally sincere people such as themselves.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Shante, He Stays: RuPaul Reflects On Decades Of Drag — And 2 Emmy Nominations

RuPaul is the most recognizable drag queen in America. His hit show, RuPaul's Drag Race is up for two Emmy Awards as it begins filming its ninth season. But drag, he says, will never be mainstream.
NPR

Food World Rallies For Quake-Hit Amatrice, Home Of Famous Pasta Dish

In Italy and the U.S., restaurants are pledging to use sales of Amatrice's signature dish, spaghetti all' amatriciana, to raise funds for the Italian town devastated by Wednesday's earthquake.
NPR

Former White House Doctor Outlines Gray Areas In Candidates' Health

NPR's Robert Siegel talks to Rob Darling, a former White House physician, about how much voters have a right to know about the medical histories of presidential candidates.
NPR

Tesla Clears Antitrust Hurdle In $2.6 Billion Deal For SolarCity

The Federal Trade Commission signed off on Tesla's plan to buy the solar panel installer. CEO Elon Musk is SolarCity's chairman and its largest shareholder.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.