Monday, September 09, 2013

Nothing Better Than Ezra

So, I emailed Alipete about the new Vampire Weekend album, Modern Vampires of the City, secretly hoping to find another soul who didn't grasp the fact that "Diane Young" equaled "Dying Young". To my surprise, she was up for another tandem track-by-track review!

Let's begin! Thanks for having me back.

1. Obvious Bicycle
Pretty simple and a little sleepy; it's a nice start to the album. They jump right into this song, almost mid-word. It's like VW never left us!  "You ought to spare your face the razor, because no one's gonna spare the time for you" is just a dagger. I love it.

This is one of those songs that I hear 20 times before I realize I have no idea what the lyrics are, and then I try to hear what it's about and I get distracted 30 seconds in. It's a nice song that's just "there", you know? I don't like how "razor" sounds like "raisin" to my ears. (Why is this guy singing about a raisin? First horchata and now raisins? Get this foodie outta here!) But I like the lead vocal and the bridge and the way the background vocals come in at the end. 

2. Unbelievers
This is a song I was introduced to WHILE SITTING IN THE AUDIENCE OF "SNL." Ezra K was wearing a great suit and is a real looker. Anyway, I'm a big fan of this one. It's a needed shot of energy after the slowish start, and in a different, twee-er world, it could be a Song of the Summer. What's the instrument that kicks in at the 2:30 mark? Organ? I like whatever is happening there. We're talking religious non-believers, right? With the holy water and the fire and whatnot? I feel like this is a "thanks, but no thanks" to religion. "I want a little grace, but who's gonna say a little grace for me?" Maybe the girl he loves wants him to try to believe in something, but he decides it's not for him. And he seems OK with it.
So good. According to a Pitchfork interview:
He tells me about the lyrics to the song “Unbelievers”, which some have pegged as some kind of atheist anthem. But to Koenig, it’s a more nuanced piece about how confusing it can be to make decisions about what to believe in as a young person today, and how people with conflicting beliefs about the world interact with one another. “Even when you’re pretty confident in some things, like loving somebody,” he says, “there are still a million other things that contribute to anxiety about the future and the choices you’re making.” We settle on an encapsulation: millennial unease. "I like that phrase," he says, with a little exasperated laugh. "It's a concise way to describe a lot of the feelings on the album."
3. Step
AC Newman said this may be VW's best song to date. Some days I really like it, and other days I skip it. The rhymes are top notch, especially Alameda/Communist Reader.

My immediate impression was that this sounds like Mark Mothersbaugh's "Tenenbaums" score meets Vitamin C's "Graduation." I can't shake that initial feeling, but I still really like this song. Most articles I had read about this album highlighted the lyrics "Wisdom's a gift, but you'd trade it for youth. Age is an honor; it's still not the truth." And they were right to; it's a terrific line. 
4. Diane Young
I love it when rock songs feature brass. I love it when things sound like Buddy Holly. I love "you got the luck of a Kennedy". The voice modulation? I don't love it. BUT I LIKE IT. I find when I think I'm getting sick of this song, all I need to do is pump up the volume and I once again am psyched. The "Dying Young" thing is NOT obvious to SOME OF US.
Before this album came out I had decided I was done with VW, and then I heard this on "All Songs Considered" and was completely won over. VW channeling Buddy Holly > VW channeling Paul Simon. Another candidate for Twee Hipster Song of the Summer.
5. Don't Lie
The word that comes to mind is "pleasant." Slightly anthemic at times, but it stays pretty mellow. I'm a big fan of the drums and the organ/harpsichord. Five tracks in, and he's really not letting go of the aging theme. "Ticking clocks"? "Headstone right in front of you"?? WE GET IT. We're all getting old.
Yeah, quite a bit of millennial unease on this one. The way he sings "Don't lie" makes it sound like a love song, or at least a song about a girl, but then you see that the song is not about some sexy relationship and it's like, "Whoa, dude. Stop yelling at me about this." Good song, though.
6. Hannah Hunt
I like the way he sings it, but not the words in the chorus. "Though we live on the U.S. dollar" really rubs me the wrong way, because who says "U.S. dollar"? That is a forced phrase. But I gather this song is about a road trip with a lady, so it makes me think of Simon & Garfunkel's "America". Also, for some reason I think that some teens are hearing this song and thinking it's really profound and romantic, and that bothers me for some reason.
When this album first came out, some reviewer noted that the name "Hannah Hunt" was similar to "Hannah Horvath" from "Girls," so when I hear this I think of going on a road trip with Lena Dunham. Which is fine, I suppose. I'm not sure if this song is profound, but I do think it's a little romantic. And any song that name drops The New York Times is OK in my book, even if Hannah/Lena is tearing it to pieces.
Hannah Hunt is a real person Ezra is friends with, if that helps your enjoyment of the song.
7. Everlasting Arms
Oh, here it is. Here's VW at its Paul Simony best. It's certainly fun and poppy, but I almost always end up skipping this one.  Also, is this song about God? 
I would be very surprised if this song was not about God. That's one negative about this album - it has at least three songs that are fun to bounce and sing along to, but only when you disregard the fact your singing about agnosticism or millennial unease or whatever.
8. Finger Back
Aside from the part when Ezra starts breaking it down about Jerusalem and a falafel shop, I don't have a damn clue what he's saying. Also Jerusalem at 103rd and Broadway? I Google mapped that intersection, and it is home to a bank and a Starbucks. I don't know enough about the history of Jerusalem to understand what kind of metaphor might be happening here. That said, I do like this song.
I do not like the way he sings these lyrics, whatever they are. You probably just like it because he sings "hit me like a Yankee" and you have misplaced loyalties for that club. I also do not enjoy the spoken word bit about the falafel shop. If I rate a song 5 out of 10, it means I am 50/50 on its existence. I would rather this song did not exist.
9. Worship You
Dislike the yodeling verses, don't hate the chorus. Whatevs.
"Whatevs" is a good reaction to this song. I could take it or leave it, but I guess leave it since I usually skip it. Again, I have no idea what he's saying though I will assume this is religious in nature.

10. Ya Hey
People have noted that this is "Hey Ya" backward and may be some sort of weird nod to Outkast. To those people I say, "Guys, he's saying YAHWEH." Anyway, there is a lot of religion happening here -- "I am that I am" and all that -- and I LIKE it, weird computerized voices aside.
I love "Ya Hey". It's slightly dark, has great bass, and the Ya Hey / Yahweh lyric is the sort of cleverness that makes VW worth following. The voice modulation works best here. "You won't even say your name," Yahweh being an unpronounceable name -- it's terribly smart. But beyond the tricks and winks, I simply love the way it sounds.
11. Hudson
After I finish rocking along to "Ya Hey", I don't love sitting through this dirge. It's fine.
There is literally a TICKING CLOCK in this song. And he sings "the clock is such a drag"! So not only is this song a real snooze, but it is also hitting me over the head with the metaphor. No thanks. I will continue to skip this one.

12. Young Lion
I am always fooled into thinking that "Hudson" is the last song on the record, so this song usually comes as a surprise. Not much too it, but it's a sweet little coda.
I don't really consider Young Lion a song. It's a minute and 45 seconds.

Good call. Take away my points for Young Lion. I don't want to inflate the overall score.

Alipete total = 61 / 110
dn total = 64 / 110



Alison said...

This was my favorite album of the summer, and I essentially gave it a failing grade. How did that happen? SORRY, EZRA.

dn said...

Whoops, the totals are wrong. You gave it 69/110, gave it 74/110. Both of us gave a median score of 7 per song, and only ranked 1 or 2 songs lower than 5, which seems to be our cutoff of a good vs bad song.

In closing, I shouldn't do math right before bed, and you shouldn't be trusted with statistical analysis at any time.

Alison said...

I've embarrassed myself. I'll stick to word stuff.