Blogs and underground music rags began raving about Vampire Weekend’s supposedly innovative fusion of African pop, chamber pop and postrock last fall. Although their use of congas, organ and shakers does add a slight ethnic edge, their Paul Simon-influenced eponymous debut is unsurprisingly not as groundbreaking as it’s been hyped to be. Those who can look past this initial disappointment, though, are in for a treat, as the New York quartet have hashed out a highly infectious collection of intelligent indie pop that will probably be remembered as among the year’s best.
Describing their sound as “Upper West Side Soweto” (Soweto is an area of townships southwest of Johannesburg), these four Columbia University grads unabashedly flaunt their Ivy League roots on the aptly titled “Campus,” which is similar to modern American singer-songwriter Josh Rouse’s odes to 1970s AM pop. Jangly guitar and hand drums set the pace as “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” tells of romantic advances made on a posh sophomore co-ed who wears Louis Vuitton and listens to reggaeton.
Not interested in making dumbed-down rock anthems, their lyrics are littered with references to architecture on opener “Mansford Roof” and the uses of punctuation on the witty yet instantly fun “Oxford Comma.” Showing that you can be both well-educated and hip, vocalist Ezra Koenig name-checks the town of Dharamsala in India (seat of the Tibetan government in exile) and crunk rapper Lil’ Jon on the latter track as he croons in a falsetto that begs to be sung along with. And fans will have the chance to do just that when the group appear at this August’s Summer Sonic festival in Chiba and Osaka.