On the train yesterday morning I stared out the window and watched Boston shutter by as I listened to Vampire Weekend’s debut for what must have been the hundred thousandth time since its release in 2008. It is now 2012 and I have existed for two weeks outside of the rarified and lovely fortress that is the modern-day liberal arts campus; in short, sometimes I think that I am a contra, too.
But indie culture, music, and criticism are all still predicated on old-fashioned ideas of authenticity and rebellion, a punk-style yowl of sneers, ripped jeans, and rock ‘n roll guitars that Vampire Weekend, with their topsiders and tidy academic couplets, manage to sidestep entirely. This has left critics befuddled and annoyed: they’re not playing the game, after all; they are avoiding the easy labels and know-it-all posturing that makes up most album reviews. But what is more punk than defying all expectations? – When everyone’s dressed in Converse and aping the past in mannered garage-rock revivals, nothing’s punker than showing up in button-downs with songs that smartly deconstruct the middle class experience with every keyboard shimmer.