The Week in Music: First 'It' Band of 2008, Vampire Weekend, Xiu Xiu, Idina Menzel (Remember Her?), Willie and the Mars Volta

Much has already been written about the shape-shifting youngsters who met and formed a band at Columbia University, which they called Vampire Weekend. Their first album, in stores today, has that aura of inevitable popularity about it. But they’re also good. (They’re the best band to emerge from the Upper West Side since the Plastic Ono Band!) Their sound has been likened to everyone from Paul Simon (circa Graceland) to “New England Joy Division” (according to them). Their first full length album is self-titled and it features such Manhattan-friendly songs as “M 79,” a bus they accurately described as usually having “a lot of old people on it—maybe going to a museum or hospital on the Upper East Side.” If you haven’t heard of them—it’s okay, I won’t tell anyone—this Daytrotter session provides a nice introduction. And their video for “A-Punk” is a studied piece of lo-fi goofiness—just try to resist them, it’s impossible!

 

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to label Xiu Xiu, the bizarre yet engaging quartet out of San Jose, California, as their music blossoms and evolves away from its post-punk roots. Their newest, Women as Lovers, was deemed some of their “catchiest and most abrasive work” by allmusic.com. Catchy and abrasive: sounds like punk to me! But wait until you actually hear it. Here’s a taste.

 

Idina Menzel is simultaneously one of the most loved and hated women: loved for her Tony-winning turn as Elphaba in Wicked, hated for taking Taye Diggs off the market. This little video, which shows Menzel in the studio recording her first solo album, I Stand, shows both sides. Incidentally, it stars her dog, Sammy Davis Jr., Jr.

 

Yes, Willie Nelson’s still alive. Yes, he’s still making a music. Yes, his new album, Moment of Forever, has him working with Renee Zellweger’s ex-husband, Kenny Chesney. And, yes, there’s a cover of Dave Matthew’s Band song, “Gravedigger,” on it. You were with me until the DMB part? Well, see for yourself.

 

Chances are you’ve already heard Mars Volta—too many critics have either slobbered over them or lambasted them since their inception in 2001 to be ignored—and you already know if you find their brand of toe-tapping, head nodding brain-rock annoyingly pretentious or mind-blowingly refreshing. If not, however, watch the video of “Goliath,” off their fourth studio album, Bedlam in Goliath, and you’ll know immediately where you fall. The Week in Music: First 'It' Band of 2008, Vampire Weekend, Xiu Xiu, Idina Menzel (Remember Her?), Willie and the Mars Volta