Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend
The top three. This year it was tough to put in order. It pains me to have to put this lovely album at #3, because it is SO GOOD. On the flip side, I love that three albums as good or better than this one were released this year.
Vampire Weekend have now released three studio albums in the last five years, and every single one of them has been great. But if you disagree, if you’ve tried to listen to their self-titled debut from 2008 or 2010’s Contra and decided this band isn’t for you, I urge you to try again. Modern Vampires of the City is the product of a band that has matured. You will not recognize it as you have previous Vampire Weekend albums. No longer can their sound be compared to other bands or other sounds from years past. Their sound is now their sound, and they are at the top of the mountain, shouting, victorious.
Lead singer, lyricist, guitarist and co-songwriter Ezra Koenig’s playful phrases display a mastery of history, culture and the English language that is unequaled anywhere in pop music. Koenig and the rest of the band — guitarist, keyboardist, backing vocalist, and co-songwriter Rostam Batmanglij; drummer and percussionist Chris Tomson; and bassist and backing vocalist Chris Baio — have crafted an album of twelve songs that is an absolute joy to listen to, one that is equally youthful and wise, one I will undoubtedly be reaching for ten, twenty, forty years down the road.
The band came through town as the headlining act on 107.7 The End’s Deck the Hall Ball, and I was there to take it all in. They were the capper of a full nine-hour day of music, and they proved why they earned top billing. Each song played, from all of their albums, had the crowd up and moving about, smiling happily from ear to ear. Koenig, somehow seemingly appropriate for the occasion, was dressed in a matching pants and button-down navy blue with white polka-dots pajama set. He played the whole 1+ hour set dressed that way, but never once seemed ready to hit the hay. It was brilliant.
This album is that rare beast that is universally loved. Debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 when it was released in May, it has been favorably reviewed by nearly every publication that talks about popular music. Both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork have ranked it the #1 album of 2013. Perhaps owing to the earned media it is enjoying, the band has only produced one true music video from the album: “Diane Young,” shown above. There are a couple official lyric videos out there as well, for “Step” and “Ya Hey” (my absolute favorite from the album, although really any one of these songs could be my favorite).
Modern Vampires is a tour de force, an album unequaled in loveliness. You must hear it before making judgment on this band. You will not be disappointed.
4. The Bones Of What You Believe by Chvrches
5. The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You by Neko Case
6. In Focus? by Shugo Tokumaru
7. Psychic by Darkside
8. AMOK by Atoms for Peace
9. White Lighter by Typhoon
10. Hummingbird by Local Natives
11. If You Leave by Daughter
12. Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit
13. The Silver Gymnasium by Okkervil River
14. The Next Day by David Bowie
15. Reflektor by Arcade Fire
16. We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic by Foxygen
17. Lanters by Son Lux
18. Howlin’ by Jagwar Ma
19. Impersonator by Majical Cloudz
20. Dream Cave by Cloud Control
21. Mole City by Quasi
22. Phantogram by Phantogram
23. Julia With Blue Jeans On by Moonface
24. Uncanney Valley by The Dismemberment Plan
25. Event II by Deltron 3030
26. Wise Up Ghost by Elvis Costello and The Roots
27. Us Alone by Hayden
28. Pure Heroine by Lorde
29. Shaking the Habitual by The Knife
30. False Idols by Tricky
31. Let’s Be Still by The Head and the Heart