Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Anti-Vampiric Nationalist

There are two big-ticket outdoor concerts coming to Vancouver's scenic Malkin Bowl this summer: The National (September 10) and Vampire Weekend (August 27/28). One of these concerts will be a highlight of the city's summer festivities, and the other will taint serene Stanley Park with hipsters, hipteenies, and nattering afro-prep pop music (yes...I just used an Oxford comma you can suck it).

Promoting their fifth and highly acclaimed album, High Violet, The National are at the peak of their creative powers right now. Hailing from Cincinnati and based in Brooklyn, The National produce a poetic, ponderous rock that is based around Matt Berninger's baritone vocals, and is reminiscent of The Tindersticks and Interpol. Their music is a mélange of shoe-gazing melancholy and percussion-driven East Coast indie rock, but the band's collective intelligence and ever-evolving sound prevent songs from becoming predictable or brooding. At times, I have worried that The National might fall victim to the forlorn, ruminant elements found in their songwriting, but their propensity for anthemic refrains and catchy rock riffs always pulls them out of the lurking doldrums. 

Having said this, I would take gloomy doldrums created by The National over Vampire Weekend's preppy-pep ska any day. I hate when Vampire Weekend is compared to the Talking Heads or The Police because VW is nowhere near as complex or talented as these two trailblazing bands from the 1980s. Sure, VW can muster up a few retro-infused melodies and clever lines, but they only have one sound. Their Congolese, Upper-West-Side-Soweto may have turned heads and sweater-vests on the Columbia campus, but the group has failed to develop and progress on their second and most recent album, Contra. Plus, how can you respect a lead singer that dresses like this (see image)?!  

I will admit that my feelings regarding these bands stem from interviews I have seen with frontmen Matt Berninger and Ezra Koenig. The former is witty, unaffected and passionate...and the latter is smug, cavalier and trendy. One should definitely separate the art from the artist when analysing, contemplating, and enjoying creative works, but researching these lead singers and watching interviews with the two bands have revealed that The National are established craftsmen and Vampire Weekend are merely transitory journeymen.

Both of these concerts have sold out, but you can probably find tickets on Craigslist. At the very least, buy/download High Violet!

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