Ivy League meets Africana

Columbia University alumni Vampire Weekend released their self-titled debut album last week. Self described as “Upper West Side Soweto,” Vampire Weekend writes catchy pop songs influenced by African popular music and Western classical music. The band was signed to XL Recordings on the strength of only an EP and 7-inch. Even with only a few songs released last year, the band became hyped on online music sites such as Pitchfork and Stereogum because of their diverse style, referring to them as a “band to watch.” In addition, the single, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” was included on Rolling Stone’s List of The 100 Best Songs of 2007. These accolades only added to the buzz surrounding their long-awaited debut release.

The quartet opens up the album with “Mansard Roof,” an Afro-beat driven pop song complete with keyboards and catchy laid-back melodies. The African influences are especially evident in “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” The song serves as a perfect example of the band’s fusion of indie rock and worldly influences, including the lead singer Ezra Koenig rhyming “Louis Vuitton” and “Reggaeton” over a bongo drumbeat.

The album contains a decisively college vibe, best exemplified in the track “Campus,” where Koenig sings “I see you walking across the campus…how am I supposed to pretend I never want to see you again?”

The album’s most ambitious piece is “M79,” a song with heavy use of harpsichords and strings named after the Manhattan 79 bus line. While it becomes apparent that this is a quirky album written by preppy Ivy-League guys with lyrical themes of architecture and grammar, never does it seem at all over-the-top, as the real beauty lies in the band’s seemingly effortless talent of writing simple, yet intelligent pop songs.

Despite only clocking in at over a half hour, the album has virtually no skippable tracks, and will have listeners enjoying the album on repeat for quite some time.

Currently, the band is on tour selling out venues and has recently been booked for this summer’s Coachella and Bonnaroo Music and Art Festivals. With their album debuting at #17 in the U.S. and #22 in the U.K, Vampire Weekend seems to be getting more popular each day. Listeners can only imagine the amounts of success they are bound to have in the future.