The funkiest, brainiest rock debut you’ll hear this year

If you had just spent $148,000 on an Ivy League degree, you’d probably be in a hurry to prove to the world how well you’d been educated. The quartet of 2006 and 2007 Columbia University graduates who call themselves Vampire Weekend surely could have proved their über-meritocratic mettle by launching a literary webzine or a hedge fund, but instead they created a pop album that knows it’s smart but is smart enough not to leave its listeners in the dust.

Lyrically, Vampire Weekend takes inspiration from a diverse if obviously collegiate background: One song rhymes “Louis Vuitton” with “reggaetón” and “Benetton”; another may or may not be a tribute to the Nobel Prize–winning poet Derek Walcott. Musically, it’s a mélange of African- and Caribbean-inspired rhythms, of gentle, catchy guitar hooks over driving, syncopated percussion. Like that all-white-boy ska band that lingered on your campus one semester too long, Vampire Weekend has also learned the value of an irresistible beat.

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The funkiest, brainiest rock debut you’ll hear this year