The oxford comma, or serial comma as it is sometimes known, is a source of great debate between grammarians, wordsmiths, journalists and lexicographers. Placed before the conjunction in a series of three or more items (e.g.: Spoon, Of Montreal, and Feist are touring), its necessity has created bitter rivals of camps on either side. Strunk & White recommend using it, The Associated Press style guide recommends not using it, and in some cases, either leads to ambiguity. New York indie pop quartet has their own unique response: “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?”
Well put. Being an editor, it’s in my nature to care, but when listening to Vampire Weekend’s upbeat and diverse blend of perfectly constructed pop melodies, I’m having way too much fun to really concern myself with matters of grammar or punctuation. With Vampire Weekend, there’s always a good time to be had, and a highbrow one at that. Keep in mind that these four gents met at Columbia University, and they actually know what an Oxford comma is, and that sophistication does spill over into their impeccable, smart songcraft. But Vampire Weekend is, first and foremost, about writing a great little pop song, and they’ve got eleven such tunes to show off on their self-titled debut release.
In mid-2007, Vampire Weekend began distributing their Blue CD-R, a demo from which 9 of these 11 tracks were culled. Almost instantly, the group became something of a household name due to rapidly spreading digital copies, blogger enthusiasm and message board discussions. KEXP, WOXY and KCRW airplay certainly didn’t hurt the band’s cause either, for that matter. For some, however, the legitimate release of the band’s first album may seem a little bit anti-climactic, as these tracks have been available for several months now. Still, there are two brand new tracks—”M79″ and “I Stand Corrected”—while familiar favorites get a little punched up in the mixing stage, making this a much better and more cohesive package, not to mention it will have a vinyl release, which is appealing to those who prefer to step away from their tinny computer speakers from time to time.
The two new tracks are absolutely delightful, and on their own, make this new release worthwhile. “M79” is a harpsichord and string driven chamber pop bounce, elegant but still steeped in the African-influenced grooves that have come to be a VW trademark. “I Stand Corrected” is a subtler, yet more sprawling track, reminiscent of the Walkmen or The Arcade Fire in its epic execution. Similar in tone is “Walcott,” a dense, piano driven song carried over from their demo, intense and gorgeous, with guitars majestically harmonizing toward the sky.
The other eight songs from the Blue CD-R are just as exciting and enjoyable as ever. The carefree and breezy “Oxford Comma” is an outstanding pop nugget, with each chorus providing a tension-building climax, only to be released into more easy-going and pretty melodies. “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” is the song that launched a thousand Graceland comparisons, and it makes sense, given the African rhythms that pulsate throughout the song. Ezra Koenig’s vocals only amplify the fun, rhyming “Luis Vuitton” with “reggaeton” and “Benneton.” “A-Punk,” the newest single, is a buoyant slice of ska-pop with warm mellotron interludes, while “Bryn” is simply a stunning little song with descending and ascending guitar riffs and incredibly catchy melodies.
Vampire Weekend have already received more accolades than most bands usually do before actually releasing an album, but their debut album should prove just how deserving they are. Each song is a little celebration and an injection of joy. While they keep each song simple, there are delightful surprises behind every verse, and hooks that never let go. When the album’s over, I may go back into grumpy editor mode, but as long as this thing’s spinning, I won’t give a fuck about an Oxford comma either.
Walkmen – Bows + Arrows
White Rabbits – Fort Nightly
The Police – Regatta De Blanc
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.