Vampire Weekend EP
Typically the world music phase of an American pop musician’s career comes closer to the end of the road than the beginning (see: Paul Simon, David Byrne). Heavily hyped NYC outfit Vampire Weekend, however, flip this trend on its head by showing their appreciation for Afrobeat legends like Fela Kuti while still decades removed from any AARP eligibility. The fresh-faced group is young enough—they all just recently completed their studies at Columbia University—that they were likely still in diapers when the last records that fused Afrobeat inclinations with American pop structures were making noise on the charts (Simon’s Graceland, The Talking Heads’ Naked).
It’s always hard to approach a band like Vampire Weekend with an open mind after reading capsule reviews short on length but long on hype in glossies like NME and Rolling Stone, but it only took one quick spin through their three-track EP for me to put aside any misgivings I might have had about the group’s seemingly overnight success. There’s a playful aspect to all three tracks, vocalist/guitarist Ezra Koenig rhyming “Louis Vuitton” with “Reggaeton” for example, that makes them immediately engaging. Koenig’s smooth tenor croon suits the crisp, clean production at play and unfussy arrangements let the shiny melodies and jumpy rhythms of each cut take center stage whether the band is opting for shuffling, laid back pop (“Oxford Comma”) or more aggressive ska-indebted pursuits (“A-Punk”). How this fusion of global rhythms and indie-pop plays out over the course of a full-length album should be interesting.