Vampire Weekend – Same (2008)

FrontCover1Vampire Weekend is the debut studio album by the American indie rock band Vampire Weekend, released in January 2008 on XL Recordings. The album was produced by band member Rostam Batmanglij, with mixing assistance from Jeff Curtin and Shane Stoneback.

In the United States, the album sold over 27,001 copies in the first week of its release, debuting at number 17 on the Billboard 200 and as of 20 January 2010, has sold nearly half a million copies. In the album’s 11th week in the UK chart, it peaked at number 15. The album also reached number 37 in Australia.

The album’s cover photo is a Polaroid picture from one of their early shows in Columbia University.

The first single, “Mansard Roof”, was released on October 28, 2007. The second single, “A-Punk”, was released in early 2008. The album was ranked as the 5th-best album of 2008 by Time, the 56th-best album of the decade by Rolling Stone and 51st on Pitchfork’s list of the Top 200 Albums of the 2000s. In 2012, Rolling Stone ranked the album number 430 on its list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. The album was also ranked 24 on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 greatest debut albums of all time, citing them for having inspired a wave of indie bands with world music influences, despite largely criticising the album on its release.

Paul Simon has spoken out in favour of the album, responding to the derision of some for perceived similarities to Simon’s 1986 album Graceland.

The album was recorded in a variety of environments including; a basement where there was “a good set up for recording drums”; a barn; the apartments of two band members and Tree Fort studio in Brooklyn. The locations bore an effect on the sound that was produced, demonstrated by a session recorded early in 2007 at a barn, which resulted in “really echoey drums”.

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In October 2007, the lead singer Ezra Koenig, said that the band had “some of the tracks […] for a long time”, so they were aware of how the album would sound but that it was “just a matter of tightening it up and remixing it a little”. Koenig also said that the band was “really excited” and “psyched” about two songs in particular, which were recorded around September 2007, called “I Stand Corrected” and “M79”. (by wikipedia)

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With the Internet able to build up or tear down artists almost as soon as they start practicing, the advance word and intense scrutiny doesn’t always do a band any favors. By the time they’ve got a full-length album ready to go, the trend-spotters are already several Hot New Bands past them. Vampire Weekend started generating buzz in 2006 — not long after they formed — but their self-titled debut album didn’t arrive until early 2008. Vampire Weekend also has just a handful of songs that haven’t been floating around the ‘Net, which may disappoint the kind of people who like to post “First!” on message boards. This doesn’t make those songs any less charming, however — in fact, the band has spent the last year and a half making them even more charming, perfecting the culture collision of indie-, chamber-, and Afro-pop they call “Upper West Side Soweto” by making that unique hybrid of sounds feel completely effortless. So, Vampire Weekend ends up being a more or less official validation of the long-building buzz around the band, served up in packaging that uses the Futura typeface almost as stylishly as Wes Anderson. At times, the album sounds like someone trying to turn a Wes Anderson movie back into music (it’s no surprise that the band’s keyboardist also writes film scores); there’s a similarly precious yet adventurous feel here, as well as a kindred eye and ear for detail. Everything is concise, concentrated, distilled, vivid; Vampire Weekend’s world is extremely specific and meticulously crafted, and Vampire Weekend often feels like a concept album about preppy guys who grew up with classical music and recently got really into world music.

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Amazingly, instead of being alienating, the band’s quirks are utterly winning. Scholarly grammar (“Oxford Comma”) and architecture (“Mansard Roof”) are springboards for songs with impulsive melodies, tricky rhythms, and syncopated basslines. Strings and harpsichords brush up against African-inspired chants on “M79,” and lilting Afro-pop guitars and a skanking beat give way to Mellotrons on “A-Punk.” It’s a given that a band that’s this high concept has hyper-literate lyrics: the singer’s name is the very writerly Ezra Koenig, and you almost expect to see footnotes in the album’s liner notes. Once again, though, Vampire Weekend’s words are evocative instead of gimmicky. The irresistible “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” rhymes “Louis Vuitton” with “reggaeton” and “Benneton” and name-drops Peter Gabriel (though it’s clear the band spent more time with Paul Simon’s Graceland) without feeling contrived. “Campus” is another standout, with lines like “I see you walking across the campus…how am I supposed to pretend I never want to see you again?” throwing listeners into college life no matter what their age. Koenig has a boyish, hopeful quality to his voice that completes Vampire Weekend, especially on bittersweet but irrepressible songs like “I Stand Corrected” and album closer “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance.” Fully realized debut albums like Vampire Weekend come along once in a great while, and these songs show that this band is smart, but not too smart for their own good. (by Heather Phares)

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Personnel:
Chris Baio (bass)
Rostam Batmanglij (keyboards,  chamberlin, harpsichord, guitar, background vocals, drum and synth programming)
Ezra Koenig (vocals, guitar, piano, percussion)
Christopher Tomson (drums, guitar)
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Hamilton Berry (cello)
Jonathan Chu (violin, viola)
Jeff Curtin (percussion)
Wesley Miles (vocals)
Jessica Pavone (violin, viola)
Joey Roth (percussion)

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Tracklist:
01. Mansard Roof (Baio/Batmanglij/Koenig/Tomson) 2.07
02. Oxford Comma (Baio/Batmanglij/Koenig/Tomson) 3.15
03. A-Punk (Baio/Batmanglij/Koenig/Tomson) 2.17
04. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa (Baio/Batmanglij/Koenig/Tomson) 3.34
05. M79 (Baio/Batmanglij/Koenig/Tomson) 4.15
06. Campus (Batmanglij/Koenig) 2.56
07. Bryn (Baio/Batmanglij/Koenig/Tomson) 2.13
08. One (Blake’s Got a New Face) (contains elements of “Obeah Wedding” Slinger Francisco) (Baio/Batmanglij/Koenig/Tomson) 3.13
09. I Stand Corrected (Baio/Batmanglij/Koenig/Tomson) 2.39
10. Walcott (Baio/Batmanglij/Koenig/Tomson) 3.41
11. The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance (Baio/Batmanglij/Koenig/Tomson) 4.03

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