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  • Millie Watson

Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City (2013)


Vampire Weekend is a band that I feel like I’ve grown up with. They were there for my musical awakening as a 15 year old. ‘A-Punk’ was kind of meme-ing then? It was immensely famous and they had that iconic video clip. I associate ‘A-Punk’ really closely with OK Go’s ‘Here it Goes Again’. Man that treadmill video clip memed, it memed so hard.

I initially came here to talk about Modern Vampires of the City, but it would be remiss of me not to talk about their self-titled album and the release of Contra. Let’s go chronological.

Vampire Weekend

I loved the Vampire Weekend album a lot. Baby me was genuinely confused by their name and I initially struggled to marry their name and their sound. But the post-modern frankness combined with absurd sounds and sparse recording made complete sense to me. Great instrumentation, creative arrangements, a clear voice that just hits it.

Every track on that album has a strong identity. I have always admired their capacity to just do what is right and no more – 5 of the 11 tracks are under 3 mins. Across time I fell in love with every single one of the songs at different times and this album has given years and years of gratification. ‘Mansford Roof’ here to make a bold statement. Soaring melody of ‘Bryn’ as a contrast to the tight, staccato form of the other tracks. Plus the tongue-in-cheek bravado of the harpsichord in ‘M79’. They’re puffing out their chest as poshos and taking the piss. An absolute favourite for a long time ‘One (Blake’s Got a New Face)’ because I love DrAmA. ‘I Stand Corrected’ always felt bittersweet.

Oh Bryn, you see through the dark Right past the fireflies that sleep in my heart

Contra

Good work! Now. Contra. I met my best friend Grace when we were in year 10. We were both hitting that indie niche and just got along immediately better than I have with anyone else. So there was much hype when the first ‘cool festival’ came to Canberra. Groovin’ The Moo came when we just turned 16 and Grace and I were buzzin, I even wore a beret.


And now my body fades Behind a brass charade And I'm obsolete

The show was pure joy. They had an enormous canvas behind them with the iconic (though ultimately contentious due to copyright) album cover on it, and that’s pretty much all I can remember... The standout song from the album is ‘Giving up the Gun’. I reckon it’s the epitome of the traditional pop song structure. Clear chorus, clear verses, repetitive, easy harmony. It’s one that invites you to participate, it welcomes the audience. And it still holds interest because of the lyrical world building.

Final reason why I like this album is because I feel like it is a point of mutual connection across my age group. People from all kinds of sub-cultures and communities seem to enjoy this album and I think that’s really nice.

Modern Vampires of the City

We made it! Well I did, I don’t know about you. So this album came out in my second year of university, probably one of the best years of my life. I was starting to properly dig into my music practice and every experience was so rich and high def. ‘Diane Young’ and ‘Step’ were the singles off the album. I didn’t get around ‘Diane Young’ but it works in the context of the album.

Side note:

I love the harpsichord and am so pleased they revived it from the way-back 'M79'. The way Vampire Weekend use it feels to me like a signifier of absurd middle-class decadence. Frontin when you have modest means, but you read somewhere that classical music means you’ve made it. This album is for when you’ve moved beyond the intense highs and lows of your early 20s, and you’re now conflicted by yearning for stability and an easy life whilst grasping at the spontaneity and glitter of youth.

A gardener told me some plants move But I could not believe it

Everyone around me also loved this album. Every song has so much to offer – although on a superficial note I hate the album name. Vampire Weekend are excellent at maintaining an aesthetic and a narrative across an album and this album was their greatest achievement in that respect. The other two the albums have superficial similarities in terms of harmonic colour and energy, but it feels there is a deeper level of storytelling and intensity across this work. The production is unbelievable and the space – it’s grand but doesn’t feel empty.

Key Tracks:

Obvious Bicycle: The lyrics are so satisfying and they sit in the melody carved perfectly for their shape. It has a real feeling of beginning, but there is no urgency. A nihilistic ‘good morning!’.

Hannah Hunt: The textures in this song are fantastic. It opens with the fuzz of found sound and white noise setting the scene, before it drops into the cleanest space with a slightly out of tune piano playing simple chords. The vocals sit so clearly above the open space with light touch synths flittering about. Simplicity reigns supreme.

But wait!

Epic climax. The plodding piano becomes wildly euphoric, drums kick in, we’re shouting now?? After a closed opening, there is a feeling of arms-wide relief in this final minute.




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