E’s Top Albums of 2008 – part 1

June 2, 2009

Yes folks, I’m finally making good in past promises to share with you some of my favorite albums from 2008.  I have debated making a list to rank them, sharing my top album from each musical genre, or just writing small reviews for a handful of albums that I particularly enjoyed.  I decided upon the latter, and will be splitting up my favorite albums, in no particular order of preference, into a series of posts.  The first album in this series: Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend.

This Columbia University-schooled crew’s debut album continues to build on its initial popular acclaim.  Their fusion of rock, African pop and Western classical influences give them a unique style while still maintaining that relevant feel.  What follows are my initial impressions of each song on their self-titled debut album as I listened for the first time.  I will say, however, that each ensuing listen (of which there have been many by now) has only increased my appreciation for this fantastic book of work.  It has elevated quickly to my favorite rock/indie album of 2008.  I cannot urge you enough to go out, grab this disk and pop it into your ride immediately (or, for you lazy friends of mine, hit me up and I’ll slide you a bootleg copy).  And now, for some specific track-by-track impressions:

1. Mansard Roof – What a fun, light way to begin an album.  A happy feel, quick drum beat and short, alluring hook make this a perfect way to kick things off.  A real toe-tapper right off the bat.

2. Oxford Comma – A comfy, simple Indie feel.  A seamless switching of ranges highlights the nice falsetto of lead-singer  Ezra Koenig.  The fun guitar work in the interlude gives it a really comforting island feel.  In retrospect, this is one of my favorites on the album.  “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?”

3. A-Punk – Upbeat punk/ska feel (as if the title didn’t give that away) but with such a smooth vocal I’m reminded more of that Sublime style of pop-punk.  Frankly, I’m a bit surprised about how much I enjoyed this song.  I also recently re-watched the Will Ferrell comedy Step Brothers and was pleasantly surprised to hear this jam featured early in the film. 

4. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa – Fun rock beat and guitar play along with the pleasant addition of some fun keyboard work.  Very much a feel-good, almost Beach Boys tone to this one.  Again, that African pop influence shines through. 

5.  And it transitions right into M79 – I walked away and thought it might still be the same song.  It says something nice about the album’s continuity.

6. Campus – A tale of love and learning (I’ve been there…).  Still maintains that fun feel, but now with just a hint of melancholia.  takes me back to my days in college.  Very catchy.

7. Bryn – A rocking little Irish jig with a plea for a love that isn’t but could be.  Clever lyrical wordplay highlites this little love song. 

8. One (Blake’s got a new face) – A quirky, crunchy feel to this song.  Nice vocal play and a simple, sweet mantra for this fun little electro-pop piece.  Plus I have a buddy who used to use the pseudonym Blake while out on the town.

9. I Stand Corrected – Opening with a smooth, near-acapella vocal, followed by a tight, stiff little beat and a rising musical accompaniment.  This album is really starting to take a swing towards that British neo-rock fell a-la “Muse.”  I take a sigh of relief when I reassure myself that these guys are actually Americans, just probably hipsters. 

10. Walcott – I really enjoy the simple but effective use of vocals and strings here.  A great use of tempo and the rise and fall of the accompaniment.  Supposedly this one speaks to the origins of lead singer Ezra Koenig.  I just enjoy the jam for what it is.  Simple, effective, calming tune about breaking away.  One of my favorite on the album.

11. The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance – A sweet reggae/afro beat to close things out.  Great use of harmony laid over a simple beat and strong guitar work.  There’s nothing like closing an album strong and I’m really loving the 1-2 combo of this jam and Walcott to finish me off.  After a few songs bordering on the same old hipster indie rock, this jam rescues that unique feeling I had during the first few tracks – really recapturing the feel of the album.  Great stuff.

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