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Hype or Ripe

It was probably inevitable in an indie culture sliding toward globalization at a rate equal to or greater than the marketplace that music would eventually bring me closer to my father. Growing up the son of Nigerian immigrants, one thing ingrained in my psyche, perhaps more than Igbo greetings and etiquette, was the sound of happy, jangling guitars and pulsating drum beats long characteristic of West African music. Riding in the car with my parents some 20 odd years, I’ve become so used to hearing Nigerian music that I didn’t fully perceive its debut in my own ’98 Nissan the first time I played Vampire Weekend’s “Bryn” while on the road to Austin last year. The instrumental chorus on track 7 of the Columbia University graduates’ self-titled debut eventually hit me like a sack of yams.

A lot has been said about the East Coast, polo-wearing, Ivy-leaguers forays into Africa in pursuit of their own post-“Graceland” sound. What was first lauded as a new and different approach to 21st century indie pop has now received a fair share of backlash from critics decrying the cardinal sin of imitation or worse, gentrification. But for all the hype and anti-hype, Vampire Weekend are still making some of the most catchy, excitingly eclectic and infectious music around. Whether defining crunk, or quoting the king of crunk, Lil’ Jon, on the stand-out “Oxford Comma,” the band are neither afraid of surprising audiences nor embracing their influences.

Of the album’s 11 songs, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” will most remind you of Paul Simon’s watershed, and “A-Punk”, “One (Blake’s got a new face)” and “The kids don’t stand a chance” are most likely to rock your flattening world. This album is ripe. And so is the band.

Buy Vampire Weekend 1/29 via XL Recordings. Stream the whole thing now here, and check out the video for “A-Punk” below.



1. Vampire Weekend debut on Letterman « Burnt Orange Juice - February 4, 2008

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