When Vampire Weekend emerged in public consciousness back in 2008, they seemed to be a band very much of the time. However, through steely indie determination, they have proved to be no flash in a pan over the last decade or so. The world was awash with bands in the same mould as Vampire Weekend back then, and they’ve established themselves over time to become one of the most accomplished groups of their generation.
Ezra Koenig met Chris Tomson, Chris Baio and Rostam Batmanglij while studying at Columbia University. After graduating from college, Vampire Weekend became a passion band on the side as they returned to the real world, with Koenig becoming a middle school English teacher. In whatever free time they had, they spent self-producing their debut album.
The band found themselves as heartthrobs on music blogs across the world, landing them a deal with British independent label XL Recordings, who released their eponymous debut album in 2008. The record got the wheels turning and perfectly epitomises that era of guitar music, which still sounds as satisfying now, with its choppy and chugging rhythm and piercing lead lines.
Since then, Vampire Weekend have shared three more records and have become festival headliners in their native America. Their most recent album, 2019’s Father Of The Bride, is their most substantial body of work since their debut, and unlike their contemporaries, Vampire Weekend have aged gracefully.
To commemorate everything that the group has given us over the last 15-years since they formed back in 2006, here we celebrate their legacy by looking at their ten best tracks.
Vampire Weekend’s 10 best songs:
10. ‘Giving Up The Gun’
Taken from their 2010 sophomore album, Contra, ‘Giving Up The Gun’ is a highlight from the record, one which saw them break away from the sound they perfected on their debut and move into poppier territory than ever before. There’s an earnestness to the track, which is soaked in emotion as Koenig looks back on the lost days of youth, while at the same time facing up to those days now being long gone.
Koenig explained to the NME in 2010: “I got the idea for the song from a book my dad gave me called Giving Up The Gun. It’s a history book about the time when Japan expelled all the foreigners from the country, closed off all trade and stopped using guns and reverted back to the sword. It seems unimaginable now that humanity could willingly go back to an older technology. It got me thinking about whether you could give up all the things that you have and go back to a simpler way of life.”
9. ‘I Stand Corrected’
‘I Stand Corrected’ provides a calming moment on Vampire Weekend’s debut album, and even though it didn’t get a release as a single, it’s one of the best tracks the band have ever produced. It’s tailored for the main stage of a festival and a communal sing-along of the highest order.
The afro-beat influences are sprinkled across the track, and even though at first listen Vampire Weekend may have seemed like just another indie band, they were far from that.
The world music influences in ‘I Stand Corrected’ showed that the four-piece had an innate nouse that separated them from the rest of the pack.
‘Step’ is another track that signifies Vampire Weekend’s progress and how they challenged themselves to attack each album with a variation of new styles.
The heavy use of sampling from other genres showed that Vampire Weekend wasn’t content to rest on their laurels. While ‘Step’ isn’t a hip-hop track, there are similarities in Koenig’s distorted vocal delivery and from a production standpoint.
Speaking about the sampling, Koenig told NME: “It’s a sample from a (rapper) YZ song, and I came to know his lyrics through a Souls Of Mischief song called ‘Step To My Girl’ – and the melody they sampled is from a ’70s song called ‘Aubrey’ by Bread.”
From the moment that the playful Spanish guitar kicks in on ‘Sympathy’, you know that Vampire Weekend are about to show their cheerful and vivacious side.
The track is bursting with energy. Even though the song’s topic isn’t the most uplifting in the world, it’s impossible not to feel joy after experiencing the flamenco tinged whirlwind that is ‘Sympathy’. The 2019 cut is another example of Vampire Weekend’s worldly influence paying dividends on their most recent album.
The track sees us revisit their mighty fine 2008 debut once more and takes you back to the halcyon days of University with the college-friendly anthem ‘Campus’.
‘Campus’ perfectly epitomised the Ralph Lauren sweater-wearing of Vampire Weekend in 2008. They were the walking talking introduction to Facebook we all wanted.
The track tells the story of awkwardly bumping into an old flame across campus at college every damn day. While it’s a simple tale as old as time, the execution by Vampire Weekend is wondrous.
5. ‘Harmony Hall’
After six years since their last single, Vampire Weekend needed to make sure their comeback was worth the prolonged wait, and they did so massively with ‘Harmony Hall‘ in 2019. The song is a deathly look at the dark world and how we haven’t learned any profound lessons from history.
Despite the sunken lyrics, there’s an uplifting feel to the track, which gives you a spring in your step and is another example of Vampire Weekend perfectly juxtaposing profound lyricism with music that immediately elevates your spirits.
4. ‘Diane Young’
The effort from 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City is a ferocious zinger about mortality – uplifting, eh? The wordplay in the title is enough to score points to get it high up the list alone, but the track itself is a beauty with a whopping chorus that is up there with the best work of Vampire Weekend’s career.
Koenig again experiments with his vocal delivery throughout the song before erupting into an emotional, passion-filled chorus. The singer explained the song’s meaning to NME: “The narrator’s voice is critical: ‘You’re fucking around doing all this shit.’ But then they have their own doubts: ‘I live my life in self-defence. I love the past because I hate suspense.’
“And that felt very true of a certain type of person – which, sometimes, I think is me – who is ultimately a coward and maybe secretly envious of people who really don’t give a fuck.”
3. ‘This Life’
The standout moment from Father of the Bride is the jangly Mark Ronson produced ‘This Life’. While there’s a frivolous nature to the song, one which makes it an utterly enjoyable slice of indie-pop magic, there’s a sincere message at the heart of it as the narrator comes to terms with both him and his partner cheating on each other.
The song explores the unfamiliar story, which hasn’t notably been tackled by anyone else in modern pop music history. Koenig balances his expert storytelling skills with his beautiful relationship with melody on the delightful ‘This Life’.
Another cut from their emphatic debut, ‘Walcott’, which unfortunately isn’t a defence of his inclusion in England’s 2006 World Cup Squad, but instead is Koenig again flexing his storytelling muscles to tell a tale about the struggles of a kid in Cape Cod.
The track is based on the film Vampire Weekend, don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it because it doesn’t exist. Ezra attempted to make it while he was at college, but the film never got made in the end.
Although, Koenig did manage to get a killer band name from the film and use the plot for ‘Walcott’.
While it would have made for the quirkier choice to leave ‘A-Punk’ off this list or place it lower down, that would have been sacrilege.
Vampire Weekend are comfortable with the song being their best-known work and occasionally play it multiple times at the start of their set at festivals, so those who only know ‘A-Punk’ are free to leave if they want. Their relationship with the track is very much the antithesis to Radiohead’s with ‘Creep’.
The song may only be just over two minutes long, but it’s the ultimate indie floor filler that nothing has come close to knocking off its perch in the thirteen years since its release. ‘A-Punk’ is as close to a perfect indie-pop song as you’re gonna get; the track doesn’t take itself seriously and gets the serotonin pumping.