Billboard 200

First the Window, Then It’s to the Wall

Last week I worked my third Lollapalooza in the box office/ticketing department, but for the first time, I managed my own ticket help. Lolla was where I started working in ticketing 2 years ago so it felt like a full circle moment being able to work Lolla in a higher position. Another full circle moment happened on Saturday night when I was able to see Vampire Weekend. I found out about the band in 2008 way before I was even into the indie rock scene. A friend of mine in my Music 101 class in college told me about them. He was also the first person to tell me about Lollapalooza so being able to say the first time I saw Vampire Weekend was at Lollapalooza is super cool and special to me. All that aside, much like Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend is back from their 5 year hiatus and will be releasing a new album soon!

Vampire Weekend was formed when founding members Ezra Koenig (vocals, guitar), Chris Tomson (drums), Chris Baio (bass, backing vocals), and Rostam Batmanglij (keyboard) were in college at Columbia University. Their name comes from a summer project of Koenig’s inspired by the 1980 film The Lost Boys. With the project, he decided to create basically the Northeastern version of the film. The project also inspired the song “Walcott” as well even though he abandoned it after working on the short film for only a few days. The band started playing shows around 2006 by performing at battle of the bands around Columbia. Then in 2007 they opened for The Shins on their UK tour. They self-produced their self-titled debut album while simultaneously working full time jobs. The album was released on January 29, 2008. It peaked at number 17 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart and number 15 on the UK Albums Chart.

Vampire Weekend’s second album Contra was released just short of 2 years later. It debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200. The band also began a large festival circuit in 2010 making stops at Coachella, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and Glastonbury. They had played their first Lollapalooza the previous summer. They also toured in support of the album in 2010. Contra was nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Album, but did not win.

Their most recent album to date Modern Vampires of the City was released in May 2013 after much talk of its release in 2011 and 2012. Like Contra, it debuted at number 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums Chart making them the first indie rock band to accomplish this feat with two consecutive albums. The album won Vampire Weekend a Grammy for Best Alternative Album in 2014.

In 2016, Rostam Batmanglij announced his leave from Vampire Weekend via Twitter, but also noted that he would still continue to collaborate with Ezra Koenig. Koenig confirmed this by saying the band was working on a new album with help from Batmanglij. At Lollapalooza last week, the band announced that the 4th album was complete after playing a set list of all old hits including the song “A-Punk” three times in a row to open the set (…and I missed it!).

Vampire Weekend is a pretty standard indie rock band. Their sound is a mixture of indie rock, indie pop, baroque pop, afro-pop, and art pop. Most of their hits have an upbeat, joyfulness to their sound. You can’t help but want to dance to their tracks like “A-Punk”, “Unbelievers”, or “Diane Young”.

As I said, I found out about Vampire Weekend 10 years ago. I kept up with them by periodically adding songs to my iTunes as new releases would come out. I never saw them live though, until last week. They were on my “must-see” list for a while. Since seeing them last week, I haven’t been able to stop listening to them. It was like Lollapalooza revitalized Vampire Weekend for me. It did the same thing for me last year with The Killers. I guess that’s another reason why I like Lollapalooza so much.

If you haven’t been listening to Vampire Weekend for the last 10 years or started somewhere in between there, here’s my call for you to listen to them asap. An album release date for their fourth full length has yet to be announced, but it’s coming soon! I’m sure I’ll probably review it once it’s out, but until then there’s tons of jams to help you wait it out. I swear. Like Lil Jon, I always tell the truth.

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Coachella Band Preview: St. Vincent

February is finally almost over. It seems like winter tends to drag on because life moves slower. It does for me at least. There are less shows, barely any festivals, and the snow sucks. Thankfully, Coachella and the rest of festival season is inching closer and closer. This week to prep for the Coachella Valley’s finest I’m previewing an artist who goes by the name of St. Vincent.

Anne “Annie” Erin Clark, better known to the world as St. Vincent, began her music career as a member of the choral rock band the Polyphonic Spree, after attending the Berklee College of Music for 3 years. Before starting her own group in 2006, she was a member of Sufjan Stevens touring band too. During her childhood, Clark began playing guitar at the age of 12 and was a roadie for her aunt and uncle, jazz duo Tuck & Patti. She got her stage name of St. Vincent from a lyric in Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ song “There She Goes, My Beautiful World”.

In 2007, St. Vincent released her debut album Marry Me. After extensive touring for the album over that year, Clark began her second album in 2008. The album, Actor, was then released on May 5, 2009. It was more well received than her debut as it peaked at 90 on the Billboard 200 Chart as well as 9 on the Independent Albums Chart and 5 on the Tastemaker Albums Chart.

Strange Mercy, St. Vincent’s third album, was released on September 13, 2011 receiving tons of critical acclaim and peaking at 19 on the Billboard 200. Clark toured worldwide through 2012 then it was back to the studio to work on her next album. In 2012 she also released a collaborative album with with former Talking Heads lead guitarist and vocalist and fellow Coachella 2018 performer David Byrne.

Her fourth album, St. Vincent, was released in February of 2014. A few months prior she announced a world tour in 2014 and released two singles in anticipation of the self-titled album. Again the album was well received and ranked highly in multiple publications. The album earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album which she subsequently won. Her touring for the album continued into 2015.

Her most recent album to date, Masseduction, was released on October 13, 2017. It was Clark’s first album to peak in the top 10 of Billboard’s 200 Chart upon release. It reached the 10 spot. It also sold close to 30,000 copies in the first week of its release with 25,000 of those being traditional album sales.

St. Vincent has a very unique music style. You may classify it as indie rock, but the sound often uses complex arrangements and an array of instruments. Sometimes it sounds pretty wild and almost like music in the background of a horror movie. It’s music in a true artistic form and complemented by lyrics that often diverge into madness. Clark’s voice is that of a former choir girl and adds beauty to the mixture of sound.

I first heard of St. Vincent while reading one of the Pretty Little Liars novels. In the book, it mentioned one of the girls on a drive listening to St. Vincent’s “Actor Out of Work” and singing it at the top of her lungs. I decided to listen to the song after reading that part of the book since I had never listened to St. Vincent before then. I really liked it and decided to download it. Since then I had only downloaded “Digital Witness” after hearing it in 2014. I never really got into Clark’s music as a whole, but for some reason, I began listening to the singles released for her most recent album “New York” and “Los Ageless” over the summer. At the end of November, I worked one of her shows on her “Fear the Future” Tour. I was also able to listen in on some of her VIP  Q & A and stay for most of the show after I finished work. I always appreciate a Q & A because I feel like you get to learn a bit about band or artist. This was no exception. I developed an appreciation for St. Vincent and Annie Clark. Not to mention, I had recently purchased Masseduction. The show was overcrowded though. I couldn’t see much from where I was standing and I ended up leaving a little over halfway through to make it home. I did enjoy it though and would love to see her again if I had the opportunity.

Coachella would be the perfect opportunity if I was attending this year. She would definitely be on my must-see list for Friday. She’s listed as a highly billed act this year so I would expect a late afternoon-evening set. If you’ve never seen her or listened to her music before, it’s pretty artistic. I think that element alone can make people curious to hear her and/or see her live. She also has plenty of visuals during her performance that add to the artistic nature of her music. To get you prepped for her third Coachella performance here’s a few staples you should check out:

  1. Digital Witness
  2. Cruel
  3. New York
  4. Masseduction
  5. Actor Out of Work
  6. Marry Me
  7. Cheerleader
  8. Birth in Reverse
  9. Los Ageless
  10. Surgeon