Artist Spotlight: Vampire Weekend

When I start this you’re gonna wonder what on earth it has to do with Vampire Weekend. It’s connected, I promise!

I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness, and I was a true believer: I tried to convert my friends and would cry when I couldn’t because I knew they wouldn’t be in “paradise on earth” with me, I would feel guilty if I got the national anthem stuck in my head because it was “worldly”, and I planned on getting baptized.

When I was 14, I became an atheist in two of the most cliche ways imaginable: I read some Carl Sagan and I realized I wasn’t straight. I won’t go into all the details of either, but it was a fraught time for me as I slowly shed away and abandoned so much of what I had known growing up. As much as I have talked about that during the years, I have never been able to accurately describe the feeling I had of confused abandonment by a being I no longer even believed in. Of knowing I didn’t believe and that my disbelief was logical, but of wishing to somehow go back to a state of faith because faith was comforting.

So when I heard the album Modern Vampires of the City, specifically the songs Ya Hey, Everlasting Arms, and Unbelievers, I found it hard to believe that despite all evidence to the contrary, Ezra Koenig was never a confused, queer 14-year-old girl in rural Virginia.

So, Modern Vampires of the City is my favorite album of all time because no matter how many times I listen, I find myself still deeply moved by so many of the lyrics. I’ll read something different in them every time, and so purposely ignore “official” interpretations…hey, it’s like the Bible!

“Everlasting Arms” doesn’t SOUND like it contains as much yearning as “Ya Hey”, but it totally does. I mean, everlasting arms is a term for God, basically. Like all good songs that could be about God, it could also very well be about a lover. The strings and drum beats always get to me, as well.

“Ya Hey” is the most overt in its themes, and is also just one of the most beautiful songs ever. Anyway, people have already written whole tomes about what this song means and they’re all smarter than me, so I’ll just let you listen instead if you’ve somehow never heard it before.

Unbelievers – there’s few lyrics I like more than the opening two lines of this song.

The rest of the album is amazing, and it’s also a perfectly ordered album. Hopefully if Diane Young was previously the only song you ever heard from it (also a perfectly cromulent song), you can have more appreciation of the album as a whole based on these few songs.

Of course Modern Vampires is not their only album (though in my opinion it is their best): this was their third album after two very good albums. Their self-titled album was their first, and did get some controversy when it came out, with the band being accused of ripping off their worldbeat sound. Which makes me feel guilty that some of my favorite songs have the most of that sound. However, the two that I love most from this album are the high-energy, but somehow wistful “M79” and the more thoughtful “I Stand Corrected”.

Their 2010 album, Contra, ALSO came with controversy. The picture on the cover was of a model and the band did not have permission to use it. From what I can tell, they said they weren’t aware of this, and settled. Anyway, it’s another fantastic album, and Giving Up The Gun is one of my favorite songs by the band. Fun fact: I had the lyrics of this song wrong until I wrote this feature. I thought the lyrics were “your SOUL has grown old”, not “your sword”. Changes the tone a lot, right?

Anyway, all the albums are worth listening to, and Vampire Weekend is great. They put on one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. You should like them too!