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Vampire Weekend's new album 'Modern Vampires of the City' streaming now on iTunes: Read EW's review here

Surprise! (Or not — who isn’t putting their album up on iTunes the week before physical release date lately?)

New York’s prep-rock royals Vampire Weekend are the latest to join the digital prerelease party today with a stream of their third studio album, Modern Vampires of the City. Below, an expanded version of the review from EW‘s issue out this Friday.

Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City (XL)

Let’s be real: A lot of you have already made up your minds about this band. Four fresh-faced Ivy League grads in boat shoes peddling Paul Simon-y songs with titles like “Oxford Comma” and “Diplomat’s Son”? Pfft. But even the most determined pffters, the holdouts who’ve spent the past five years ardently ducking the New York quartet’s slier-than-thou Benetton pop, will have a pretty damn hard time resisting this one.

This isn’t to say that Vampire Weekend’s third effort is a wild departure from their first two. Modern Vampires is still rife with all the sunny-day hooks, East Coast imagery, and blueblood signifiers you’ve come to expect. (Sample lyrics: “You got the luck of a Kennedy,” “Hannah tore the New York Times up into pieces.”) This time, though, the band spends less time admiring their own clever lines and throwaway quips. A new kind of focus is evident here, and the result is twelve tightly plotted, fully realized songs that share a common thread.

Even the geography is tighter. Never landlocked, Vampire Weekend sent postcards from Cape Cod, California, and beyond on their previous albums, but Modern Vampires is all but tethered to New York. Even when song characters manage to drift elsewhere, they seem to yearn for home. The stable sense of setting works in the band’s favor, freeing frontman Ezra Koenig up to explore deeper, more universal themes — like mortal anxiety. “Wisdom’s a gift but you trade it for youth/Age is an honor — it’s still not the truth,” he croons on “Step,” while on “Don’t Lie,” he warns all the young Turks,“There’s a headstone right in front of you, and everyone I know.” Looks like that pun at the heart of lead single “Diane Young” isn’t there just to be clever.

Of course, you don’t have to care about Koenig’s quarterlife crisis and poeticized NYC life; Lena Dunham’s might be enough for you. (Tellingly, the two are friends; Koenig recently made a cameo on Girls.) As with their previous albums, Vampire Weekend’s elegant under-the-chandelier pop and upper-crust punk rave-ups still provide subtext-free sonic pleasures all on their own.

But when everything here lines up the right way — and more often than not, it does – Modern Vampires is the perfect album for the coming Atlantic summer. Think of it like saltwater taffy: bright and sweet, with plenty to chew on.

Grade: A– 

Best Tracks: “Unbelievers” • “Don’t Lie”

More on EW.com:
Inaugural BottleRock brings Black Keys, Kings of Leon, and Anthony Jeselnik to Napa Valley
Rootsy Americana band the Black Lillies release video for ‘The Fall’ — EXCLUSIVE
Lauryn Hill sentenced to three months in prison for tax evasion

Inaugural BottleRock brings Black Keys, Kings of Leon, and Anthony Jeselnik to Napa Valley

Music festivals continue to grow, and between now and the end of the summer, there is essentially a major one every single weekend. The expanded menu requires a lot more diversity, both in the types of acts booked on the main stages and the other attractions offered on the grounds. Gone are the days when you could just set up a PA and invite some dudes with guitars—now there have to be multiple hooks to convince people to make the journey to your field.

Enter BottleRock Napa Valley, a new festival that launches its inaugural entry this Wednesday, May 8, and runs through Sunday May 12. The music lineup is impressive, and will include sets from the Black Keys, Zac Brown Band, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Kings of Leon, Flaming Lips, Jane’s Addiction, Train, the Shins, Alamabama Shakes, and dozens more.

Perhaps BottleRock’s biggest secret weapon, though, is its comedy lineup: READ FULL STORY

Vampire Weekend premiere new song 'Ya Hey': Hear it here -- VIDEO

A lot of champagne gets wasted in the new lyric video for Vampire Weekend’s newest song, “Ya Hey,” in which people move in slow motion and shower themselves with bubbly. All the time, the song’s lyrics scroll up the screen. This is the band’s third video for its upcoming album, Modern Vampires of the City (out May 7), following “Diane Young” and “Step.” Meanwhile, the band has also been playing “Unbelievers,” “Obvious Bicycle,” and “Everlasting Arms” in concert and on late-night shows. That’s half the album so far — and a bunch of new sounds to hear. Consider “Ya Hey” practically a VW ballad, driven by drums. Is it about God? It sounds so sad, in a we-have-so-much champagne kind of way.

Watch below. What do you think?

READ FULL STORY

Neutral Milk Hotel announce first reunion dates in 15 years

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Hold on to your flannels, kids: revered indie-rock band Neutral Milk Hotel is reuniting for the first time in fifteen years.

The Athens, GA, group behind 1998′s seminal In the Aeroplane Over the Sea just announced a small string of tour dates this fall on their official web site. And while the band’s elusive leader Jeff Mangum has been trotting out NMH songs during his handful of shows in recent years, this new outing will bring together the full NMH crew, including Jeremy Barnes, Scott Spillane, and Julian Koster, playing together for the first time since the year  Aeroplane was released.

Only a few dates have been set so far, but the band’s site teases that more will be announced soon — hopefully including one in Pawnee, for April Ludgate’s sake. As of now, though, you’ll be able to catch them at the following few dates:

READ FULL STORY

The Postal Service's 'Give Up': An oral history of the indie side project that became an aughties touchstone -- and a platinum seller

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Last week, the Postal Service released Give Up: Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition, a two-disc version of their platinum-selling (it only took nine years!) sole album, and they celebrated by kicking off a new tour that includes a prominent slot at Coachella.

EW caught up with all the principals involved in the creation of Give Up for an oral history that appeared in issue 1255/56, but we couldn’t get it all in in print, so enjoy this expanded version here.

2001 Jimmy Tamborello releases his first full-length album as Dntel, Life Is Full of Possibilities. The acclaimed indie electronic collection features a song called “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan” with vocals by Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard.

JIMMY TAMBORELLO One of my roommates was in a band that went on tour with Death Cab for Cutie, so Ben and my roommate had become friends. Ben was going to come stay at our house for a couple of days for fun, and it was right when I was working on this album with different guest vocalists. So I asked him if he’d be up for it, and I sent him the instrumental and when he came to visit he recorded it. We hung out and had fun, and that’s where it started.

BEN GIBBARD It wasn’t as if we really connected personally all that strongly when we first met. It was just an interesting arrangement that he would send me this music and he would let me put whatever I wanted to put on it. “Evan and Chan” came together really quickly, and the only thing I had on it was vocals.

TAMBORELLO Ben brought up the idea of doing more together—like an EP or something.

GIBBARD Initially the idea I pitched to him was an EP, and it was only when Sub Pop started sniffing around that it turned into an album.

TONY KIEWEL, Sub Pop A&R Jimmy and I went to college together. He told me they were thinking about doing an EP based on the experience of “Evan and Chan.” I had just started doing A&R, and I had recently learned how the world treats an EP as opposed to an LP. Why would you waste time making an EP? If you’re going to do it, do a full album. People will review it, and you can sell it for three times as much. I told them for sure Sub Pop would want to do it if that was something they wanted to do.

GIBBARD The music has always been the more difficult thing for me to write, so the idea of somebody basically turning in what were mostly finished beds of music and then I could sprinkle other things on top of it and write melodies and lyrics was really appealing to me. He was nice and easy-going and a kind of shy quiet guy, and I’m a little more gregarious, so I think that worked too.

2002 Operating out of Los Angeles, Tamborello begins the process of sending Seattle-dwelling Gibbard music, which Gibbard would then send back with his additions—which included guitars, keyboards, and additional vocals by friends Jen Wood and Jenny Lewis. READ FULL STORY

Record Store Day 2013: What's on your must-have list for the annual vinyl bonanza? Here's ours

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This Saturday, April 20, a great yearly tradition arrives once again.

No, not that one. We’re talking about the sixth annual Record Store Day, which pays tribute to the independently-owned record stores that were once ubiquitous but are often now fighting just to stay afloat in in the iTunes and Amazon age.

The day is more than just a tribute to the fetishization of vinyl; it also honors the sense of community that comes when a bunch of music obsessives get together to talk about their favorite stuff — and kick-fight in the aisles over a limited-edition Roky Erikson 7-inch, or whatever their coveted object may be. (Check out the impressively large list of stores that are participating in this year’s festivities.)

Though there are plenty of live in-store performances, signings, and giveaways, the main attraction has become the vinyl releases that surface for one day only (and then for an eternity on eBay). This year’s list doesn’t have the same parade of heavy hitters as last year’s, but there are still plenty of goodies worth seeking.

I love Record Store Day, mostly because I just love record stores. I’ll be celebrating this year at my home base during my high school years, and here’s what I’ll be searching for:  READ FULL STORY

New Phoenix album 'Bankrupt!' now streaming on iTunes

Apparently, anything Justin Timberlake, David Bowie, and Depeche Mode can do, Phoenix can do aussi.

The French-bred foursome’s new album Bankrupt! doesn’t officially hit for another week, but you can listen to the album in its entirety right now on iTunes.

Phoenix are currently in a holding pattern in between Coachella weekends (they’ll headline again this Saturday, April 20, just as they did this past Saturday).

Stay tuned to the Music Mix for critic Melissa Maerz’s full review of Bankrupt!, and word to the wise: the third track, “S.O.S. In Bel Air,” is the keystone. In the meantime, enjoy the official video for first single “Entertainment” after the jump:

READ FULL STORY

On the scene at Coachella Day Two: Phoenix, R. Kelly(!), Hot Chip and more

Will they or won’t they? As the sun set on Saturday night, one question hung over the Coachella audience like a cliffhanger in an ’80s dramedy.

Would Daft Punk join Phoenix at the end of the latter’s headlining main stage set? And if so, would there be pyramids, robots, and lasers, or just two Frenchmen pumping their fists in promotion of their forthcoming record?

The evidence stacked up in favor of a cameo from the famed Parisian electronic duo, whose 2006 Coachella set was widely considered the match that sparked the current mania for electronic music. For one, both members of Daft Punk were reportedly in attendance. On Friday, the festival main stage buzzed over a trailer hyping the group’s new record. Plus, there’s a long history of bonhomie between the two groups, including a 2010 Daft Punk pop-up appearance at Phoenix’s Madison Square Garden show.

Instead, we got R. Kelly. The 46-year old Chicago R&B lothario materialized towards the end of Phoenix’s set to play an abbreviated three song medley of “Bump n’ Grind,” “Ignition (Remix),” and “I’m a Flirt,” wearing an unbuttoned black shirt, blue jeans, and what appeared to be a crown.

Suddenly, the Empire Polo grounds transformed from a meticulous 80s synth-pop party into a gyrating outdoor boudoir. To say it was weird was an understatement.

READ FULL STORY

Coachella Day One: Blur, Skrillex's 'supergroup' Dog Blood, and more

The beauty (or not, depending on your point of view) of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival is that there’s no longer one Coachella Music Festival. Once a one-day event attended by 10,000 people, the Indio bacchanalia has become a rite of passage for North America’s 25-and-under population.

In 2013, it occupies half the weekends in April, with over 100 acts competing for attention, spread out across seven stages and enough art installations to satisfy even the most ardent aesthetic snob. Headliners this year include the reunited Stone Roses, Blur, Phoenix and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rumors of a Daft Punk appearance remain rampant.

But if there’s a unifying theme that’s emerged from the last few festivals, it’s that electronic music has supplanted rock as the primary locus. That’s not to say that there weren’t bravura sets from America and England’s most celebrated rock bands, but none could match the MDMA-addled hordes that congregated in the Sahara Tent, the festival’s dedicated airplane hanger for electronic dance music. READ FULL STORY

What is the best '90s alt-rock one-hit wonder?

Earlier this week, the brand new reissue of Blind Melon’s self-titled debut album arrived in the EW offices. After giving it a few spins and discussing its worth, a handful of us in the music department came to the same conclusion many of us did back when this thing first landed in record stores: It’s terrible. “No Rain” is the only good song on there, and “No Rain” is just the worst.

However, a lot of people will defend “No Rain” simply because of nostalgia. If you’re in your late 20s or early 30s now, it’s entirely possible that “No Rain” was in super-heavy rotation when you first discovered MTV, and even if you didn’t like the song, it’s certainly a part of you now. There’s plenty of ’90s canonization going on right now, partially based on the fact that the people who were in high school in 1998 now have all of the disposable income, and partially because the Internet has made it way easier for artists well past their maximum saturation points to hold onto the fans who could develop into lifers.

Thus, we’ve been getting comebacks from ’90s icons of all sorts, from New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys to Lisa Loeb and everybody on those Sugar Ray package tours. Of course, the great artists from that era have stuck with us (or moved on to other, better projects), but there are a handful of welcome comebacks, including Spacehog.

After some time spent on side projects and re-charging some batteries, Spacehog are back with a new album called As It Is On Earth coming out on April 16, and they played a tiny cobweb-shaking show at New York’s Mercury Lounge last month. I always loved them—as a huge fan of David Bowie, I always enjoyed their glam-centric approach to alt-rock.

They always deserved to be bigger than they were, but their one famous contribution to radio culture, “In the Meantime,” holds up exceptionally well. It manages to successfully merge sci-fi soul with post-grunge radio crunch, and the hook is absolutely killer. Before the show, I was with a few friends of mine at a bar, and somebody else queued up “In the Meantime” on the jukebox. As we listened to it there, and then a second time at the show, my friend turned to me and said, “This very well might be the best one-hit wonder of the ’90s.”

He may in fact be right (it’s certainly better than “No Rain”), but in order to come to some kind of conclusion, it’s necessary to examine some of the other contenders and to apply a little bit of science. READ FULL STORY

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