Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Quintet 11: My Favorite Kind of Vampire

Quintet is a bi-monthly periodic music review of any five songs I happen to come across/stumble upon, or were recommended, any how, any time. Suggestions from readers are most welcome because music deserves to be shared. Let me be your convert or critic.

I can say that this year's long Christmas break was the most productive I've spent in recent years. I caught up on TV show episodes I missed, read classics (although this was less of a voluntary decision on my part and more of me trying to be the #BestSisterintheWorld *wink*) and listen to albums that came out in 2013.

I browsed through different top-albums-of-2013 lists and Vampire Weekend's Modern Vampires of the City topped Pitchfork's Top 50 list. I listened to it and was surprised at how good it was. I regretted the day I dismissed my friend Gina's* suggestion to listen to this album when it came out sometime in May 2013. I shall never doubt any of her recommendations from here on in.

Before I continue, I feel that I have to make a disclaimer. This review cannot, and does not even attempt to, match the beautiful way in which Lindsay Zoladz of Pitchfork wrote about Modern Vampires of the City. Here's an excerpt:
Modern Vampires is such an overwhelmingly humane album that it makes all those words that used to stick to them [Vampire Weekend] (elitist, pretentious, preppy) seem outmoded, too... Maybe what this album is really breaking up with is dogma—anything that limits the scope of your perspective and what (or who) you can love... We are moving in the direction of a place where everybody is allowed to love everything.

If those words can't convince you to give the album a try, I hope this Quintet will help.

These are my Top 5 songs from the album Modern Vampires of the City:

5 Everlasting Arms
Sometimes vagueness can be good. Everlasting Arms' ambiguity of meaning gives it a relate-able quality. It can be about God, the person you love or even death. This song's quirky beat adds to its mystery.

4 Young Lion
Internet research told me that this song was written by guitarist/keyboardist and backing vocalist Rostam Batmanglij after lead vocalist Ezra Koenig told him that, during the stressful final weeks of finishing the band's second album Contra, a complete stranger stopped Ezra while he walking to the studio, and said, "You take your time, young lion." It's now the coda to the Modern Vampires. A final message of hope.

I liked this song or coda for its simplicity--it only has the words You take your time, Young Lion as lyrics--and skill. It shows off the excellent skills of keyboardist Rostam. After listening to eleven tracks with lyrics which could mean anything and everything, Young Lion is a fitting end. The calm after the storm, so to speak.

3 Obvious Bicycle
The calm and controlled beat of this song is a refreshing contrast to the rest of the album (except for Young Lion). I think the song tells us not to be too hard on ourselves (we are, after all, ourselves' harshest critic) because in the grand scheme of things, we are merely dots in the universe (Ah you oughta spare your face the razor/Because no one’s gonna spare the time for you). More importantly, others' opinion of us shouldn't matter as well because we're not in this world to live by their opinions or focus on negative things, we are in this world to live (So listen oh/Don’t wait) and revel in the good (So keep that list of who to thank and mind/And don’t forget the rich ones who were kind).

2 Unbelievers
The song's meaning and message is heavy; it's beat is not. It balances out really well. Unbelievers asks existential questions about an unbeliever's place in a world of believers. (Got a little soul/The world is a cold, cold place to be/Want a little warmth/But who’s gonna save a little warmth for me?; Want a little grace but who’s gonna say a little grace for me?; But what holy water contains a little drop, little drop for me?; Want a little light/But who’s gonna save a little light for me?)

But ultimately, the song says, regardless of what/who we believe or don't believe in, we all end the same: we die; we turn to ashes (Girl, you and I will die unbelievers/Bound to the tracks of the train).
I’m not excited, but should I be?Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me?

1 Step
Love at first hear. This is how I describe the way I fell in love with Step. The beat is quirky and attention-catching but it was the brilliant use of metaphor that completely won me over. Step speaks of the connection between music and man.

I completely relate to the way lead vocalist and composer Ezra treats his music--with protectiveness and, sometimes, selfishness. I liked listening to songs not everyone listened to. The lesser the fans, the better. I treat the music, the artists and the songs I discover as my secrets I refuse to share to the world (We saw the stars when they hid from the world/You cursed the sun when it stepped to your girl). Hence, my love for Tristan Prettyman, and Jason Mraz before he became too mainstream. But as I grow older, I realize that good music deserves to be shared (Your girl was in Berkeley with her communist reader/Mine was entombed within boombox and walkman/I was a hoarder but girl that was back then) and not sheltered (The truth is she doesn't need me to protect her). I can go on writing about the beautiful way the song is written but I do want you to find out on your own how great this song is for people who really love music.

It doesn't hurt that the lyric video for this song is beautiful, too.

As for the other songs on the album that didn't make my top five, here's what I think about them:

Diane Young
Aside from showing a great use of a homophone (Diane Young = dyin' young) and lyrics (You've got the luck of a Kennedy), this song also has good beat. Very catchy. Almost pop sounding. Reminds me a little of The Preatures' Is This How You Feel?

Don't Lie
For a song that tackles a constant, if not common, topic (one's readiness for death), this song does a good job. It starts with quesions (I want to know/Does it bother you?/The low click of a ticking clock; God's loves die young/Are you ready to go?) and ends on, I think, a positive note that despite the immediacy and frailty of life, one should live it to the fullest because we never know how long will be here (There's a lifetime right in front of you/And everyone I know).

Hannah Hunt
It's one of those songs that would be appreciated more and better if people just took time to really listen to what it says. It's rich with allusions and metaphors that deserve to be admired and understood.

Finger Back
A friend pointed out that she listens to Vampire Weekend more for their beats than their lyrics. Finger Back is, for me, a good example of this beats-trump-lyrics view.

Worship You 
I like the message of the song because it urges those who believe in God to do worship and prayer with energy and passion (Energetic praise you want it/Any kind of place you want it), and to do it out of love and faith--not fear.

Ya Hey
Zoladz of Pitchfork describes this song as a break-up song about God. Other says it is the counterpart of Unbelievers because it question's God's existence from the point of view of a believer. (Through the fire and through the flames/You won't even say your name/Only "I am that I am"/But who could ever live that way?) Beat-wise, this song is the catchiest.

Someone pointed out that this song speaks vastly of New York City history. Since I'm not from there or have never been there, the song doesn't appeal to me that much as the other songs on the album did.

Modern Vampires of the City is a very good album. I suggest everyone to listen to it in its entirety because--and I quote Zoladz of Pitchfork--every track on here has its own weather. I'm sure everyone will find a song that floats their boat that others--not even me--liked. Who knows maybe Hudson is the song for you?

*Gina is also one of many friends who suggested Sherlock to me a while back.


You may want to read other Quintet entries:

Quintet 10: You, Me and Dianna
Quintet 9: Music is my Mistress
Quintet 8: Music for the eyes
Quintet 7: Something old, something new
Quintet 6: Top 10 Performances from Glee's Season 4
Quintet 5: Original vs. Covers
Quintet 4: Radio
Quintet 3: GLEE-king out
Quintet 2: Holy Week Playlist
Quintet 1: Music to my ears

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