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Vampire Weekend

Africa by way of New York

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January 22, 2008

African rhythms made a splashy American debut with Paul Simon's "Graceland" in 1986, but since then they have been few and far between in anything outside the world-music bins. Vampire Weekend, a blogger-beloved quartet of recent Columbia University graduates, is the inaugurator of what will undoubtedly soon become a trend, hijacking the ringing guitars of Orchestra Baobab and the twitchy pulse of Nigerian highlife for the band's self-titled debut album out next Tuesday.

Lead singer Ezra Koenig has Simon's slightly strained vocal tones down pat, and even shouts out Peter Gabriel on "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa." Unsurprisingly for a band so green, there are some rough patches on "Vampire Weekend"; the repetitive chorus of "M79" is wearying after a few spins. At its best, Vampire Weekend takes the exceedingly familiar template of indie rock and invigorates it with a chiming guitar sound that suggests the band has been spending its downtime browsing afropop.org.

"Campus" restrains its guitars until reaching the chorus, releasing Koenig's solo in an orgasmic wave. The lyrics may revolve around pretentious undergraduates and girls renting their first apartments, but the interplay of the four members of Vampire Weekend reveals musicians wise beyond their years. Any band subject to as much indie-snob obsessiveness is bound to suffer from a backlash, but the men of Vampire Weekend have diamonds on the soles of their guitars. [Saul Austerlitz]

Vampire Weekend performs at the Museum of Fine Arts on Feb. 9. Tickets are $12-$15 at mfa.org/concerts or 617-369-3306.

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