3.5 out of 5 stars
As the latest in a line of huge buzz bands to come out of New York City, Vampire Weekend has accomplished a lot since forming while students at Columbia University in 2006. They’ve sold out shows all across the city, toured Europe with The Shins and released their debut LP on XL Recordings, home of Basement Jaxx and Thom Yorke. Oh yeah, and their self-titled release reached No. 17 on The Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart.
You don’t have to look far to find out why these guys are getting all the attention they have been lavished with, as they’re not your average indie rock outfit. Rather, their songwriting and instrumentation give copious nods to a variety of influences including African popular music, western classical music and even some reggaeton dispersed here and there. There are plenty of punchy percussion and chiming guitar lines to complement these many influences. The band refers to the sound as “Upper West Side Soweto,” a tag that fits the band’s hybrid sound well.
When all is said and done, the one thing that is certain is that you won’t find another band out there that sounds like Vampire Weekend.
Key Tracks: “Walcott,” “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” “Campus”
3 out of 5 stars
Mike Doughty’s career could certainly be described as a saga. He founded the band Soul Coughing back in 1992, which some of you may remember had a bunch of minor hits throughout the ’90s, only to be dissolved by Doughty in 2000 due to a combination of his growing tired with the group and his heroin addiction. After cleaning up, he turned his attention to his solo career.
As with the majority of his solo material, Doughty’s lyrics feature interesting turns of phrase that only someone with his vocal stylings could pull off successfully. All of this fits well with the instrumentation and musical style that has become Doughty’s trademark since striking out on his own: midrange to up-tempo singer/songwriter material featuring syncopated guitar playing mixed with some elements of hip-hop.
Where Doughty seemingly missteps on this record is not particularly clear. He sticks to the same formula that brought him success in 2005. The sound is not old or tiresome, nor are there any particularly subpar songs. However, there is nothing that is especially memorable either – nothing that clings to you and gets stuck in your head for days like, “Looking at the World from the Bottle of a Well” or “Unsingable Name” from his last effort.
Key Tracks: “Fort Hood,” “Like a Luminous Girl,” “I Wrote a Song About You”