Showing posts with label vampire weekend. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vampire weekend. Show all posts

Monday, May 6, 2019

video review: 'father of the bride' by vampire weekend

UGHH... you know, I'm expecting a backlash, the only question will be how pronounced.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN and then I'm going to talk about P!nk, so stay tuned!

album review: 'father of the bride' by vampire weekend

You know, when I first started my channel, I just managed to skirt most of the messy conversation around Vampire Weekend - so who wants to have fun examining decade-old wounds and talk about cultural appropriation?

See, that's the loaded thing about Vampire Weekend - I know just by mentioning that band and the term 'cultural appropriation' I've triggered flashbacks for anyone who was involved in the indie blogosphere of the time, but the conversation has always been more complicated, especially since their debut. Because yes, like Paul Simon before them and tUnE-yArDs after them, they borrowed from African rhythms for a jaunty, generally likable, and very marketable brand of literate but safe indie rock that won a lot of predominantly white liberal critics over, but did leave a few of the more progressive ones questioning how much they should really praise them, especially given how the band always got wary and weirdly defensive whenever that topic got brought up, both on and off record. What I always find amusing is that so many critics turned themselves inside out trying to justify their fondness for this band despite the cultural appropriation conversation - which for the record I think is a valid accusation, especially given the band isn't really taking steps to uplift the originators of those sounds or even deliver them with much texture or context of their roots - and they skipped the band's over-educated deflective ego and awkward voyeuristic streak around women, especially on Contra, a pass that a few insightful critics made sure to highlight how a less privileged or well-connected band probably wouldn't have escaped so easily. And if you don't believe that, I just need to point to how Kyle Craft was treated by certain critics last year - and that's where the text was on his side!

And thus it should come as some surprise to everyone I just pissed off that their third album Modern Vampires Of The City - which I hold to be their best - wound up on my year-end list in 2013, so how can anyone justify that? Well, a lot of that comes down to really good compositional instincts and the band finally picking up some momentum along with jettisoning the antiseptic African flourishes that I never bought in the first place, but it brought at least a few more traces of self-awareness to bear, even if upon reflection that album does still have a few too many sour notes. And since then... honestly, I had no idea where Father Of The Bride would go - Rostam Batmanglij is long gone, members of the band have been writing behind the scenes for other acts for years, and it has been six years since the last Vampire Weekend album. So without hearing any of the singles - and stepping into a very different hype environment for any indie pop or rock act - what did we find on Father Of The Bride?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

album review: 'modern vampires of the city' by vampire weekend

Let's talk about hype.

Yeah, I know it's crass and populist and it's the sort of thing most established critics won't deign to discuss, but I think it's important to at least talk about, particularly considering we critics are often responsible for it. As much as trailers and news and media buzz will get seats in the theaters and records off the shelves, critical praise can be instrumental in moving product, particularly when it comes to the independent music scene, or acts that never achieved mainstream acceptance. 

For an example, I published my review of Now What?! by Deep Purple on April 29th, and I gave it a very positive review (because it deserves it, that album was awesome). And since then, I've noticed my review of that album has been linked on a couple music blogs and forums. And while I'm extremely grateful for those hits and those links, it also cast into sharp relief the fact that people will spread the opinions of critics they like, and thus the critic has a certain responsibility to manage expectations. And as a critic who has a reputation for analyzing material likely more than many consider it is worth, I can definitely understand why some cynical types would denigrate my reviews as contributing to the 'hype' machine, convincing the gullible that there is some greater meaning in the music. 

And while I consider that opinion disingenuous and a little insulting, I can't deny that critical opinions have weight in the popular context. Sure, you'll have your fair arsenal of skeptics who will want to be convinced and they'll ignore the critics, to say nothing of fans who'll buy everything certain acts put out regardless of substance, but people look to critics because they want to make intelligent purchasing decisions with regards to their entertainment. And that's one of the reasons the critic's voice does have some weight in popular culture - when they have access to the entertainment before most, they can contribute to the hype machine in both positive and negative ways. Positive hype can spin a lot of money for an act by convincing undecided buyers, while negative hype can be absolutely poisonous. And while larger properties are less likely to be shifted by hype, one way or another, a smaller act can be crushed by bad hype or elevated beyond their wildest dreams by critical praise.

And incidentally, this raises yet another problem I have with Pitchfork, namely because the site has had a publicized desire to push the indie and hip-hop culture landscape towards whatever might be deemed 'the next big thing' in the underground scene, and given that their album rankings have demonstrable power to increase sales, they have had some success in trying to define the sound of the indie and hip-hop scene. Take, for instance, the massive success of Channel ORANGE, an excellent album that would have likely been overlooked without the critical praise showered by every critic, including Pitchfork, and it's no surprise that the muted PBR&B sound that Frank Ocean created on that album has become prevalent in the modern R&B scene. 

But with that being the case, there's a very real problem that comes with hype generation, and that's the rationality behind the hype. Too often it feels like Pitchfork is seeking to jump on new trends not because they hold depth or interesting new sounds or because they represent provocative artistic direction, but because they're simply the next new thing. It's the consumerist desire to be trendy and 'in', and while this attitude has taken root in hipster culture, it has come at the loss of sincerity. Yeah, I really like Channel ORANGE, but I don't love it in the same way I love The Zac Brown Band's Uncaged or Ke$ha's Warrior (both I consider to be 'better' albums, by the way), and it gets more than a little irritating when it's held up as some great transcendent album. This was similar to one of the many issues I had with Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and while I've warmed to it a bit more two and a half years later, I'm still very conscious of the fact that it didn't come close to earning the avalanche of critical praise it got. 

And look, I like liking things. I like being able to agree with the rest of the critics and saying that an album is as good or as bad as it really is. I like being able to say something is awesome and showing as many people as I can. But I like to explain why I like or dislike something, and I feel that too often the hype machine shuts down this critical discourse. And sure, most people won't care to justify why they like something, but the job of a critic is to explain why they think something works or doesn't work, and when they become part of the hype machine, the problem is exacerbated. 

And with all of that, let's talk about Vampire Weekend, one of the most hyped acts indie rock has seen in a long time.