When I first heard Cousins, I watched it at seven in the morning on a Thursday in a grainy Youtube video, all strobe light and dancing kids, and I did everything that fantastic and lucky weekend singing to myself the precious few syllables that I understood. “Me and my cousins and you and your cousins I can feel it coming.” And the drums and the drums and the drums and the way the guitar slid and the bassline. The words were different then and unintelligible. It was very breathless. I hear it now (the album version for the first time, tonight) and it is a different animal entirely, but no less stunning and no less breathtaking. The truth of the matter is, in my mind, that Vampire Weekend have not released a single bad song, and I have always had incredible faith that they will never release a bad song. Cousins is the logical continuation of this wonderful streak of utter awesome, in that it is utterly awesome. It was utterly awesome in March when that Youtube video surfaced, and it is utterly awesome right now while I play the album version for perhaps the hundredth time trying to make sense of my feelings. What follows is the best I can do. I truly do not have the words for this band. They will not stop impressing me.
Cousins is very crisp – but we cannot simplify Vampire Weekend to that element, to the crisp element, to that knife-sharp guitar, because there are always complexities, and Cousins has complexities. The crispness of it acknowledged, there is something almost primal as well – Ezra Koenig’s voice has never been predictable or followed any kind of convention, and that is where its charm lies, in the cracking and the yelping and the barking at the start and the blending of words, in the urgent way he says “You’ll be toasting my health.” The bassline is something you cannot not dance to, but it is more than just a groove laid beneath everything – it is incredibly present and incredibly vital. The drums are quick and heavy and all on the snare under the guitar. There is so much energy just in the way they roll into the second verse. There is a strange distortion to everything – the guitar, namely, though it retains that standard enough to be recognizable. The whole thing ends too soon like church bells ringing.
Vampire Weekend have always had energy, to be sure, but there is something different about Cousins. Cousins has a different and remarkable kind of energy – it is driven utterly by itself, and yet it shoves at its own boundaries. Cousins is kinetic. Its motion gives it power. Everything leads effortlessly into everything, a thousand quick and smooth and completely logical progressions – every element upon every element. And this is where the talent of Vampire Weekend lies. So many facets and progressions, all of them built together with such continuity so as to be entirely natural. “A line that’s always running,” absolutely effortless.
PMA is giving away Cousins on a 7" single. Enter the giveaway here.