Wherever You’ve Been, We Missed You

When you really think about it, a vampire weekend sounds either incredibly lame (as in hanging out in the cemetery with a bunch of goths, drinking cheap red wine, and reading aloud from Anne Rice novels) or absolutely horrifying (as in spending a few days trying to escape thirsty hordes of vicious, undead killers). What one doesn’t expect to hear from Vampire Weekend is a pleasant, erudite song by pleasant, erudite Columbia students. A less too-cool-for-school Strokes (obviously due to the Paul Simon influence) is more than welcome, and this easygoing, f-bomb-dropping song about punctuation, chap-stick, and lying about how much coke you have is a fine way to begin this week’s Digest. I just think their band name is all wrong.

» Listen to “Oxford Comma” at Quick Before It Melts

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One would probably think that after getting on a perfectly likable band’s case for their silly name, I would have to “give the business” to the similarly designated Architecture in Helsinki. Not so. The crucial difference being that while I like Vampire Weekend’s body of work so far, I have virtually no interest whatsoever in most of Architecture in Helsinki’s output. They mostly strike me as a sub-par Of Montreal, but dammit if “Heart It Races” doesn’t have me replaying them over and over. While combining several disparate elements I would normally pay little notice (steel drums, annoying vocals), the song manages a danceable, delightful surge of ethereal splendor that proves, more than anything, that this band isn’t showing the better part of its hand. Well-played?

» Listen to “Heart It Races” at Pop Tarts Suck Toasted

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In 2005, 50 Cent, irrepressible co-author of the illuminating G-Unit Books, informed the world that Kanye West’s initial success was due to the public’s desire for something less hardcore after his own initial success. 50 recently added that he would retire his solo rap career if Kanye’s forthcoming album outsold his own. I don’t believe him, but it’s a nice thought. To show my support, I’m pimping Kanye this week by linking his new single “Stronger” in which he wisely chooses Daft Punk as a backdrop for his well-meaning, self-important and mostly forgettable lyrics. The beat is pretty tight, though. Please make this happen, Kanye.

» Listen to “Stronger” at IndieChristoph

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Petra Haden has been moving effortlessly in and out of the mainstream for over 15 years. She’s been in that dog and the Rentals and contributed to songs by Beck, Luscious Jackson, and Weezer, among others. Her first solo album, Imaginaryland, proved the integrity of her versatile voice through a series of mostly a cappella songs; she followed it a few years later with an incredibly ambitious a cappella rendition of the Who’s landmark album, The Who Sell Out. Her contribution to the upcoming covers album, Guilt By Association, features her version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” A good cover version can make a listener recontextualize the song’s meaning and sometimes, by extension, the original recording artist’s place in music history. This one just makes me smile like an idiot.

» Listen to “Don’t Stop Believin” at Recidivism

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Although last week marked the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s much-bereaved and much-disputed passing, his legacy is just as potent as ever. Fans thronged Graceland, in stifling heat which resulted in one death, to attend a memorial candlelight vigil. Jack White is even playing the King in an upcoming spoof of Walk the Line. In Elvis’s honor, I proudly link to “Suspicious Minds,” which I think everyone can agree is probably the best song ever recorded. Wherever you are, Elvis, we miss you.

» Listen to “Suspicious Minds” at The Glorious Hum


TMN Editor Erik Bryan is living the dream. He grew up in Florida, but he’s from all over. He likes playing chess, making cocktails, smarting off, and not freezing to death in Brooklyn, where he currently resides. More by Erik Bryan

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