Bursting forth as guitar pop sensations Vampire Weekend's idiosyncrasies have proved their versatility, with their African-pop influenced guitar indie songwriting staying the pace.
Indeed, the band combine Ezra Koenig’s emotive lyricism and dynamic voice with their catchy, distinctive sound to create indie bangers on record after record.
Vampire Weekend play Alexandra Palace this weeke and here are their best and most-loved songs, which we think should definitely be on the setlist...
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‘A-Punk’ (from the album ‘Vampire Weekend’, 2008)
Can you even go to any self-respecting indie house party and not hear this song playing?
‘A-Punk’ has become a modern classic with its jaunty guitars and sense of urgency. Even if you don’t know Vampire Weekend, you will know this song. Undoubtedly one of the band’s biggest hits, it’s pretty timeless.
When their self-titled debut album came out, Vampire Weekend were accused of ripping off Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ but their influences actually came from elsewhere. Paul Simon actually went to see Vampire Weekend play live with his son and spoke to the band about how they were both creating music from the same influences.
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‘This Life’ (from the album ‘Father of the Bride’, 2019)
The third single to be taken from this year’s ‘Father of the Bride’ album, they don’t come much catchier than this feel-good song. You probably still have the “cheatin’ on, cheatin’ on me” chorus stuck in your head.
Ezra Koenig sings whilst in the midst of an existential crisis, “Oh Christ, am I good for nothing?”, while Danielle Haim lends her vocals too to create beautiful harmonies. The jaunty guitar makes a return, accompanied by handclaps. The overall sound is bright and bouncy, in stark contrast to its darker lyrics. It has a real ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ vibe to it.
At the heart of it all, it’s just a really fun track. Danielle Haim also features on another track from the album, ‘Hold You Now’.
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‘Hannah Hunt’ (from the album ‘Modern Vampires of the City’, 2013)
This songs begins with the abstract sound of wind and background chatter, before the introduction of a simple piano.
A million miles from ‘A-Punk’, ‘Hannah Hunt’ shows an entirely different side to Vampire Weekend. It is a sombre, understated and lyrically brilliant tale of a love affair. It’s also a gentle and romantic song. Ezra Koenig demonstrates his storytelling ability via his lyrics (“Though we live on the US dollar/ You and me, we have our own sense of time”).
There is a maturity to ‘Hannah Hunt’ which, until now, we’d only glimpsed before but here it flourishes.
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‘Harmony Hall’ (from the album ‘Father of the Bride’, 2019)
After a six year-long wait, fans were treated to ‘Harmony Hall’ as the first release from the new album. Like ‘This Life’ and the other tracks on the album, ‘Harmony Hall’ has a real joyful energy to it despite the lyrics evoking a sense of helplessness (“I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die”).
Its joyfulness if akin to throwing the curtains open on a beautiful day. The track begins with a groovy piano and sublime acoustic guitar and is a great introduction to a newer Vampire Weekend sound. It’s exuberant.
It’s worth mentioning that there is a noticeable resemblance to the Grateful Dead’s hit ‘Touch of Grey’, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that ‘Harmony Hall’ is five minutes and nine seconds of springtime cheeriness.
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‘Oxford Comma’ (from the album ‘Vampire Weekend’, 2008)
Grammar isn’t the most rock ‘n’ roll of song topics but then again, the preppy quartet have never really cared about being ‘cool’, rather choosing to embrace their eccentricities (be they musical or otherwise).
“Who gives a f*ck about an Oxford Comma?,” Ezra sings. Well, it turns out the song was inspired by a Facebook group Koenig had come across called Students For The Preservation of the Oxford Comma.
The song also references Lil’ Jon and actually was the start of a friendship between the band and the rapper. Lil’ Jon even went on to appear in one of their music videos, but more on that later. Richard Ayoade actually directed the video for ‘Oxford Comma’, as it happens.
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‘Diane Young’ (from the album ‘Modern Vampires of the City’, 2013)
‘Diane Young’ showcases a slightly grittier sound from Vampire Weekend, but that doesn’t make it any less addictive. In fact, the “baby, baby, baby” bridge is glorious and the song has an exciting energy. ‘Diane Young’ is upbeat with a retro feel.
The infectious track was released as a 7” with the B-side ‘Step’ as a special, limited edition Record Store Day release. It’s one of the band’s most sonically experimental tracks and that’s saying something considering they are constantly dabbling in different genres. There is some clever wordplay too, for example ‘Diane Young’ sounds like “dying young”.
It features some funky bass and percussion that sounds like handclaps. There’s even a tambourine in there somewhere. The vocal distortion around 43 seconds in is unusual and catches the listener’s attention, alongside the furious guitar which follows.
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‘Giving Up The Gun’ (from the album ‘Contra’, 2010)
Another early one, ‘Giving Up The Gun’ is full of fast-paced, quirky goodness and discusses swords, guns and ageing in the band’s own unique style (“And now my body fades behind a brass charade/ And I’m obsolete”). The music video is packed full of celeb cameos like Jake Gyllenhaal and Joe Jonas.
In the video, the band’s A-list friends take to the tennis course in a competitive match. Directing duo the Malloys were behind the ‘Giving Up The Gun’ video and also directed another of the bands’ music videos, ‘Holiday’.
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Catch Vampire Weekend at London's Alexandra Palace on November 13th and 14th.
Words: Narzra Ahmed
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