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Album Review: Vampire Weekend – Contra (XL Recordings)

Okay, well we’re a little late with this one. Chances are you’ve already heard and formed an opinion about Vampire Weekend’s second album, Contra. Fortunately for us lollygaggers, that has given us the opportunity to try and put this album into context.

Some of the facts:

- Contra debuted as the number one album in the country, selling 124,000 copies in its first week. It was only the 12th independently-released album to do so. According to Billboard, their previous best sales week was when their debut self-titled album netted 28,000 sales in the opening week.

- Almost every U.S. show in support of this album has sold out. Locally, the band has progressed from the Rock and Roll Hotel (capacity 400 people) in early 2008, to two nights  at the 9:30 Club (1,200) later that year, to DAR Constitution Hall (3,720) this coming April. All  sell outs.

- In their second video in support of this album, for single “Giving Up the Gun,” we get a futuristic tennis match featuring Joe Jonas and Jake Gyllenhaal as players, Lil Jon as a French-speaking instructor and RZA as a Neo-from-The-Matrix-like referee (no joke). This is almost as random/absurd a group as another video starring Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It (On the Alcohol),” which also features Forest Whitaker, Ron Howard and Foxx himself rolling up to the club in a Rolls Royce to party with Samuel L. Jackson, T-Pain and many more. Seriously.

- On March 6, the group made its second appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

All of the above accomplishments, including the ability to cobble together such a large swath of the cultural zeitgeist for one music video, demonstrate that Contra has launched Vampire Weekend from the flavor of the month to one of the biggest bands in alternative music. They have managed to do this by writing catchy tunes that can hook in somebody oblivious to the hype while incorporating technical elements that appeal to portions of the indie set.

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One Track Mind: Discovery – I Want You Back (In Discovery) / Jackson 5 Cover


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MP3: Discovery – I Want You Back (In Discovery) from 2009′s LP (Jackson 5 Cover)

Editor’s Note: LP was dropped a week early for $8.  $2 goes to Oxfam America.

I think I’ve done my fair share of radio bashing here at Aural States. Whether it was by wholeheartedly agreeing with Spectre’s assessment of modern hip hop radio, or whilst dissing the filler-engrossed waves put out by what was once 99.1 HFS, I think I’ve made my opinion clear (of course, for these purposes, I ignore the few respectable oases still in operation today. Props to WTMD and WPFW for solid programming).

As if to spite FM radio’s gloomy condition, Discovery, the product of Ra Ra Riot vocalist Wes Miles and Vampire Weekender Rostam Batmanglij, have found something to like about turning on their dials. They find use for the treading beats and beaten-to-death subject material thrown together by dozens of half-assed MTV projects, the difference being that their output is surprisingly enjoyable in its entirety, rather than only mildly so in single form.

The most interesting track on their debut, LP, comes in the form of a Jackson 5 cover. They deftly dodge the the problem of recreating Mr. Jackson’s superpitch vocal work by using R&B’s recently popularized all-purpose miracle cure–autotune, suitably reimagining one of Motown’s greatest tunes in context with modern radio conventions (right down to the too-fake-for-life drum kit and glazed-slick production). The funny thing is, it sounds completely authentic, like something blasted out of a high-schooler’s mom’s minivan on the ride home after senior prom. Because they’ll remember that moment for the rest of their lives.

Their song selection couldn’t have been more appropriate for a good-ol’-fashion modern-meets-classic comparison. The Corporation-written chorus progression translates well into any medium, and the lyrics remain just as relevant today as they were 40 years ago. Past releases have proven that all performers involved have a keen eye for catch, making Discovery’s cover an ideal candidate to show where pop music has gone.

Bonnaroo 2008: Day 1 in Review

Setting the atmosphere and general attitude of the festival, the first set I saw was Brooklyn’s the Big Sleep in the table-filled Troo Music Lounge. There was a huge turn-out for the low-marquee band and they delivered on the promise of their expansive, brooding, garage-y fuzz rock. Though a bit hesitant at first, they locked into solid grooves that by the end of their set had a sizeable dance pit going, a few tables askew, and the tent bursting with people.

Superdrag (Wiki) was up next at the That Tent, where I spent the remainder of the evening.  I must say they underwhelmed.  To be generous.  Read the rest…

Air documentary! Free!

Fucking Air. I love them. Pitchfork.tv nails it again with another potentially great one-week exclusive.

And while I was over there, I stumbled upon everyone’s favorite blog-lash victims, Vampire Weekend. Fuck the haters, “A-Punk” is a spectacularly addictive song. Check the P4K vid after the jump.
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Vampire Weekend, goddamn bloodsuckers…

It’s here. Last week, NYC’s Vampire Weekend dropped their hotly anticipated, highly hyped, self-titled and first LP on XL Recordings.

Reading more and more of the hooplah, reaching supernova levels, I really wanted to hate this release. But goddammit, every once in a while, there’s actually something that comes out that meets the expectations. For me, this was like Michael Bay’s Transformers. I didn’t think I liked the people behind the scenes and I thought they didn’t know the material they were working with and were just delivering phoned-in approximations and reinterpretations.

Man was I wrong. More comments to come. Anybody else that can’t get this damn CD out of their player/MP3s out of their MP3 player?
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