"Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" by Vampire Weekend
It's surprisingly easy to dive into Vampire Weekend's odd world, even as harpsichords crash into genteel Afro-pop ("M79") and characters debate grammar over bouncy organ and guitar ("Oxford Comma"). The young band's saving grace is compactness, which not only saves thousands of dollars in kora-player and backup-singer bills, but also keeps things alert and accessible. Ezra Koenig crafts flirtatious vocal melodies, rarely falling back on the novelty of his lyrics, which remain unusal throughout ("But this feels so unnatural / Peter Gabriel too"). For an African-flavored hook, VW needs just a prickly twirl of guitar ("Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"), and the band does without a tacky section of hand-drummers, too—drummer Chris Tomson interprets African and Caribbean rhythms with resourceful pluck. Still, this self-titled debut basically has two moods—perky ("A-Punk") and kinda-blue-but-still-perky ("I Stand Corrected")—which puts VW in slight danger of sounding like indie rock's Congo River cruise-boat band. There's reason to hope those limitations won't last, because Vampire Weekend seems to understand where quirk ends and decent songwriting begins.