Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
The youth are wired these days, the headlines blare in enormous font and with a slight hint of indignation. They are slaves to their crack berries and glowing screens of questionable content and unending information streams. They refuse to find their little rabbit holes to duck into and just obsess and study and develop. They've got no time to just have their minds stolen by any one idea or imagining, working on it tediously and unrepentantly until the nut is cracked or the Tootsie Roll center of chocolate is chomped into - finally arriving at transparency and attaining a certain satisfaction for the betterment they drafted.
The early days of Vampire Weekend, the Brooklyn-based band of four that is the biggest young sensation in the world as we speak (despite not having a readily available album in stores until January), must have been like that as well. They must have gone to that place where the dim, buttery light bulb flickers internally upstairs, giving everything a turn of the century laboratory luster. This occurred while they were studying for and taking exams at Columbia University, an institution of learning that takes mad brains to survive and the beginnings had to have been something of a discussion before they ever were acted upon.
It's hard to imagine that anyone, or any four people, can arrive at this same place collectively without some experimentation and some definite mixtape exchanges. The rabbit hole where they went for full immersion was actually the act of getting out into the great experiment even more than they were before, collecting and then altering the very indefinite articles of collage that were to go into this very precise rhythmic mÃ©lange that goes by a very unspecific nomenclature.
Try the music on the group's EP and upcoming full-length on for size and it will fit any body like Lycra or fur, snuggling with all of your curves or bony edges, respectively. So much has already been made in the papers and the glossies - not to mention the glossy-screened version of papers, the blogs - about the band's shining for the textures and disposition of Paul Simon's Graceland, an album that's surely seeing a digital interest explosion since it all started, that it's almost better to forget that it had ever been mentioned in the first place.
There are similarities, sure, but the only convincing one to support the connection is the same lazy and expressive match in voice between Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig and Paul Simon. It helps that Graceland just makes a better case than any other of his solo recordings. Vampire Weekend - Koenig, keyboardist Rastam Batmanglij, bassist Chris Baio and drummer Christopher Tomson - specialize in an unspoken emotion that isn't so much kept as it's passed along like a mild electrical current through a cord - connected at all times to the long snaking fire that can refrigerate, light, heat, connect and do about a billion other things, all in the same form.
They also specialize in a fascinating localization of lyric that brings their chosen environment into the squared circle, shining a hot, hot spotlight onto the various places that they haunt much more than occasionally. Koenig writes about places he's infatuated with too - the places of dreams and mystery - but more often than not, the songs that come out are grounded by some very specific experiences and zip codes.
He writes about hot spots on the Ivy League circuit (so to speak) - Boston and Cape Cod - and about smart topics as the sloped French-style roofs made famous by clock towers and McDonald's fast food restaurants and the superfluous usage of a certain punctuation mark. It's a picture card of where they call home, along with the inclusion of the various female foils that have slipped their ways into the credits. These songs move as if they were on roller skates and made of ambitious hearts. They're almost the kinds of songs that are written to people, not for people, a distinction that you know when you hear it and no sooner than that.