Artist – Vampire Weekend
Album – Vampire Weekend
Label – XL Recordings
Released – 29th January
The debut, self-produced album from New York’s Upper West Side’s Vampire Weekend is a musical adventure that never bores. With influences ranging from afro-beats to punk-rock, Vampire Weekend have a song for everyone, whether you love or hate them. Hailed as the solution to the void The Strokes seemed unable to fill, Vampire Weekend have the songs and the intelligence to bridge that gap. With songs like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “Oxford Comma”, they are offering a breath of much needed fresh air to the music industry and I am more than happy to breath it in.
At the turn of the century Slipknot exploded onto the rock scene with a sound that journalists worldwide did themselves a brain haemorrhage trying to pin down, but all tags fell by the wayside as this nine headed beast plundered its way around the globe. Slipknot had achieved what so many before them had failed to perfect – they had created a sound that can only be described as the epitome of aggression, hatred and anger.
With the disappointment of 2003’s Vol.3: The Subliminal Verses, this new release was met with apprehension. But worry not – they’re back! This monster of a long-player tears its way through your speakers to throw itself boisterously around your living room before shitting on your entire CD collection. Embracing a sound that resembles that of the nonet’s first two albums, this is a mostly crushing release, songs such as “Gehenna” actually proving to be uncomfortable to listen to. The only thing that robs this masterpiece of its 10 star review is that it is a part Slipknot, part Stone Sour record – by no means a bad thing (‘Snuff’ is an exquisitely beautiful lament), but not what the ‘Knot represent.
In a year that saw a folk resurgence, Fleet Foxes’ eponymous debut is surely the best example of the beauty which that genre has to offer. Coming from the birthplace of grunge, Seattle, the 5-piece created an album that eschewed any influences their hometown had to offer, instead using their talents to make, in their words, “baroque harmonic pop jams” built on vocal harmonies, which have drawn many comparisons to The Beach Boys. But while Brian Wilson’s band used their vocals to construct radio-friendly choruses, Fleet Foxes applied theirs to crafting gentle and haunting tales of pastoral life, adding reverb to create music which sounded as if it came from 1950’s Appalachian America. Singles “White Winter Hymnal” and “He Doesn’t Know Why” evocatively exhibited the band’s mastery of vocal harmony, and brought deserved praise to the most enchanting album of the year.
The year 2008 yielded an array of notable albums, but one that stood out for both for its groundbreaking significance and its unmistakable style was Benga’s second album ‘Diary Of An Afro Warrior.’ The whole album hums with wobbling, synth-soaked bass lines fused with dynamic and energetic production bound to leave you nodding your head in appreciation. Benga as an artist, producer and a DJ represents one of the founding forefathers of the dubstep genre, and has been evolving the sound for years – impressively, he delivers this release at the tender age of 21.
The south Londoner’s eagerly anticipated follow up to debut album Newstep tore up music stations and dance floors across the country with his unmistakable beats and eclectic dubstep sound; most memorably with the ubiquitous “Night” produced with Coki – a tune which, by now, you might well have begun to grow a niggling abhorrence for, perhaps symptomatic of sessioning a tune just that bit too hard. Despite this, such majestically fierce anthems as “Crunked Up” and “26 Basslines” are sure to rip up many a dance floor and represent a solid selection to get you in the mood for a night out.
As we drown in a sea of formulaic and mindless so-called “indie”, a shadow of pop light emerges from the darkness in the form of Danish sextet Alphabeat. Filled with a fresh fun sound, their debut album This Is Alphabeat makes a definite statement about the return of pop to the UK. Singles like “Fascination” and “10,000 Nights” are emblematic of the brilliant song writing that provides track after track of infectious tunes, whilst “Go-Go” and “Boyfriend” add an element of disco delight. Despite the slightly questionable lyrics of “You should wear rubber, always wear rubber” (“Rubberboots”), which sounds like the slogan of the Easy Tiger campaign, these zesty ten tracks will keep you smiling during the dark winter nights. The “Fantastic Six” may not have super powers, but they sure know how to write a great pop song!