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.


wretch said...

I'm not going to pretend to be Banning Eyre or anything, but I've been listening to African music (traditional and afropop) for quite some time now, and to me Vampire Weekend sounds more like early '80s Johnny Clegg. And I wasn't all that impressed with early '80s Johnny Clegg.

Dig the Xiu Xiu, though.

Loring Wirbel said...

Yeah, I know, there is a definite aura of frat-boy in the whole project, but I still love the hooks on a lot of the songs.

wretch said...

Hooks is hooks. If one gets into you, there ain't no arguing with it.

John G said...

I like both these releases also Loring. Vampire Weekend is very easy to listen to.
Black Mountain released an album this year I've enjoyed, I hear they're great live too.

Loring Wirbel said...

Nice Denver Post piece on Xiu Xiu: