Clinton Obama Kwassa Kwassa

Listening Parties
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photo / gaelenh Creative Commons licensed: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 

Vampire Weekend. Have you heard of them? You probably have. They’re the latest in the phenomenon known as “blog bands,” which is exactly what it sounds like – bands that rise to indie stardom because of their blog buzz. Austin’s own Voxtrot made their name in a similar way.

Some people really hate blog bands – I guess in the same way we’re averse to being told what to like by anybody. We’re willful creatures, fairly resistant to hype. But those people are the extremists. Most of us – including me – make our judgments on a case-by-case basis, or just take our recommendations from trusted friends or sites. So, Vampire Weekend? Gotta say, they’re pretty good. Their music is a smart and sophisticated mix of collegiate, Ivy League indie-craft and African pop. Kind of like if Talking Heads went to Brown instead of the Rhode Island School of Design. The mix comes through in their song titles: On one hand you have “Mansard Roof,” “Oxford Comma,” and “Campus.” On the other you’ve got “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” Pretty good mix to begin with, but once you throw in all the other sonic references – “Campus” is nearly a Strokes song, “Mansard Roof” rides with all the joy of Animal Collective, and “A-Punk” is the best track the Arctic Monkeys couldn’t even fathom – there comes a point where the band’s sound has transcended the immediate Sounds Likes. It’s a really good album.

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photo / gaelenh Creative Commons licensed: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 

But the moment I heard about it, I got a sense of deja vu: I’d heard these guys before. Specifically, it was “Oxford Comma” that reminded me. I mean, how many bands write songs with that name? Someone had told me about these guys at least nine months ago. I’d been to their MySpace – and then completely forgot about them until the recent bursting-forth of hype. It makes me think about how long Vampire Weekend must have sat in my subconscious; all the while they were moving up the blog-hype ladder from unknowns to Pitchfork darlings.

That’s how plenty of bands make it these days, though. Working the blogs can be just as valuable as touring. Take the case of Holy Hail, who reputedly hadn’t even left New York City before attracting national attention. They were on ON Networks’ Dinner with the Band!

I couldn’t help but be reminded of this year’s presidential primaries, which are – thankfully – drawing towards a close. I mean, how many light years ago did we hear about Obama? (Hint: It was over a year ago.) It’s remarkable to see how public perception has been shaped by the Internet almost uniformly, even in two completely different spheres. Whether it’s the Democratic primaries or Vampire Weekend’s CD release (a different kind of Super Tuesday altogether), it seems you need to be on the scene at least a year early to reap the benefits of exposure.

Thanks, Internet. “But,” you say, “before the Internet, plenty of bands had to promote themselves locally and tour on shoestring budgets for years before anybody noticed them.” Entirely true. And I suppose presidential candidates did, too, minus the shoestring budgets. But just look at how the Internet has changed the face of promotion; it’s as dramatic as the change from radio to TV. It’s public image 2.0: Since consolidated media now have to compete on all fronts with all these channels of bloggers, building hype has just become more grassroots. If you don’t show up a year early, you’ve lost the race already.

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photo / ttoes Creative Commons licensed: Attribution