Saturday, February 9, 2008
First 2008 Keepers: Giddy and Gloomy
There's been an overabundance of press buzz about the Columbia University white-boy Afro-beat band Vampire Weekend, and yes, I'd say it's mostly deserved -- with reservations. Think of English Beat or early Police filtered through Paul Simon's Graceland and you've got the idea. It's easy to listen to the new self-titled CD and say it's overproduced, with too much orchestral background -- except when you're dancing or hopping around to the three-minute arrangements. It's like the first time hearing that classic old ska band, The Selecter -- sometimes you can't help but dance.
Then there's Jamie Stewart's latest outing as Xiu Xiu, this one even more surreal than the last CD, The Air Force. Given Jamie's explicit gay politics, the title is an exercise in irony, as is the rest of the album. But it's fascinating to hear an off-the-wall piece like "Guantanamo Canto" be followed by a straightforward cover of David Bowie's/Queen's "Under Pressure," with Michael Gira sharing lead vocals with Jamie. I know a lot of people say they find Jamie's voice one big whine, his lyrics more self-obsessed than Bright Eyes', his arrangements too full of strange noises to be comfortable. But I find myself liking Silicon Valley's Xiu Xiu more with each album.