Album of the Week: “Vampire Weekend” by Vampire Weekend
Yet again, I’ve chosen to review one of my favorite albums of all time. Many songs from this album have made a resurgence in popularity via Tik Tok, so this review may be of great interest to Tik Tokers! “Vampire Weekend,” the 2008 debut album of indie band Vampire Weekend, is hugely responsible for shaping my taste in music. My introduction to the album, embarrassingly enough, was through the Wii game Just Dance 2, wherein “A-Punk” is a playable track. It was then that I knew I needed to dig deeper into the music of Vampire Weekend.
Ezra Koenig, frontman of Vampire Weekend, has been very vocal about the ways in which The Grateful Dead has inspired his own music. While The Grateful Dead’s influence is evident on all four albums of Vampire Weekend, it is their debut album on which this inspiration is most prevalent. My mom, a die-hard Deadhead, has even mistaken a few of the instrumentals on “Vampire Weekend” for songs by The Grateful Dead. Since the entire album is inspired by The Grateful Dead, it is no surprise that each song is composed of fun, clever guitar riffs that draw listeners out of their seats. Another interesting parallel between Vampire Weekend’s debut album and the music of The Grateful Dead is the prevalence of cryptic and seemingly nonsensical lyrics.
“Vampire Weekend” is the album that best encapsulates the band’s image. The members of Vampire Weekend all attended Columbia University and attempted to pursue conventional careers prior to their musical debut. This is a major part of their artistry, since they are known for their preppy clothing and clean-cut image. However, the lyrics and bounce of “Vampire Weekend” acts in direct juxtaposition to the well-rounded and educated image of the band. The album is fun, silly, and nothing that you would expect to have been penned by a foursome of Ivy Leaguers.
While “Vampire Weekend” is classified as an indie album, it does venture into jam and world music territory. One aspect of the album that has never failed to charm me is the integration of African drumming. While African drums do not appear on every track, they make their way onto a decent few, which definitely helps to make each song unique. This 11-track album consists of songs no longer than four minutes in length, making for an amalgam of fun party tunes with themes that only college students can truly comprehend.
Ezra Koenig’s raw vocals are the cherry on top to every song on “Vampire Weekend.” His passion for the lyrics is palpable as he allows himself to let loose, not bridling his voice in the slightest. Koening’s performance on this album is not limited to his erratic and charming vocals. He is also the lead guitarist, responsible for some of my favorite guitar riffs of all time. Koening brings his absolute best on “Vampire Weekend.” Koening is the primary songwriter for the band, and does an excellent job of bringing his poetry to life through his music. For a debut album, his talent is shockingly polished; the same goes for every band member.
Since this album means the world to me, choosing a favorite track is impossible. However, I have compiled a list of my top three to discuss. First is “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” This song, the fourth track, is an homage to worldbeat music if there ever was one! Very much nonsensical, the lyrics cover a range of topics, such as sex, college, Beneton sweaters, and even Peter Gabriel. It is Koenig’s wailing vocals over the African drumming that makes this song such a moving piece of music. It is fun to dance to, analyze, and even study to. Next up is “Campus.” I’ve been told that this is one of the “Vampire Weekend” tracks that has made its way onto Tik Tok, so it may be familiar to some. I love “Campus” because it is one of the only songs to tell a story on the album; it does an excellent job! The bouncy guitar riff increases the urgency of the speaker’s journey across campus, and even manages to make you envision the events of the song as they happen. It is simple, with many lyrics being repeated, but it is an efficient way to tell a story! Finally, I must mention “Oxford Comma.” This is another nonsensical tune on “Vampire Weekend,” but then, so is the title. Despite the title, this is not a song about grammar rules. Rather, it is a Grateful Dead inspired track about Lil John, the Dalai Lama, Chapstick, and the United Nations. An odd song, for sure, but a Vampire Weekend staple!
Not surprisingly, this album earns five stars from me. Even with my love of it aside, it is a fun, compelling, and authentic piece of music. No song is alike on “Vampire Weekend” and the combination of different genres creates an album that has something for everyone to enjoy!