Death Cab Redux and Willie's 1,473rd Here's a look at a few CDs that hit stores today, including debuts from Vampire Weekend and Kate Walsh, a solo project from Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie, and the 1,473rd album from Willie Nelson.
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Death Cab Redux and Willie's 1,473rd

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Death Cab Redux and Willie's 1,473rd



Death Cab Redux and Willie's 1,473rd

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It's Tuesday, and thank you very much, Rachel.

That is the day that we call up Esquire's magazine's Andy Langer to talk about new music releases. A weekly event we have cunningly titled, New Music Tuesday.

Welcome back, Andy.

Mr. ANDY LANGER (Esquire Magazine): Morning.

GALLIANO: Hello, how are you?

Mr. LANGER: Good.

GALLIANO: All right. All sorts of new stuff out this week from the musical continents of indie rock, country and folk. Let's start with the indie rock land mass, shall we? A newbie band called Vampire Weekend has been getting a lot of buzz. What's the fuss about?

Mr. LANGER: Well, I mean, the buzz is they've positioned themselves as sort of these four smart Columbia graduates who wear preppy clothing and play Afro-pop.


That makes me want to give them a sucker punch, I got to tell you right there. That description…

Mr. LANGER: I know.

GALLIANO: Makes me want to give them a hug.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GALLIANO: I love this stuff, and I've actually - you know, there's this whole sub-genre that's brewing around a variety…

STEWART: I shouldn't say that. They're coming in this week.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GALLIANO: Really? Nice one, man.

But, for the last few years, we've seen a lot of the - it's like literate indie rock. The Decemberists, we were talking earlier in the show about the Magnetic Fields, and it feels like Vampire Weekend is sort of in a similar prep-schoolyard vein. Is that right?

Mr. LANGER: Yeah, at least aesthetically. But musically, they're a little more straightforward, a little more just pure pop or traditional pop structured than somebody like The Decemberists or The Mountain Goats or those bands that are just cramming words, as many words as they can into a song.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: This is pretty straightforward stuff.

GALLIANO: All right. Well, let's hear an example. This is a song called "Mansard Roof." It is from their eponymous album.

(Soundbite of song, "Mansard Roof")

Mr. EZRA KOENIG (Vocalist, Vampire Weekend): (Singing) I see a Mansard Roof through the tree. I see a salty message written in the eves. The ground beneath my feet, we are garbage and concrete, and now the tops of buildings I can see them, too. I see a Mansard Roof through the tree.

GALLIANO: All right. Now I have to admit, I'd only - I'd heard another song off this album, "Oxford Comma," that - and I didn't hear the Afro pop in it, but I hear it here. It's really cool.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah, I mean - and there's a moment in each song where you think Ladysmith Black Mambazo is about to show up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: And, you know, Graceland is pretty much the blueprint for this record, and they're not shy about that. And they also sound, you know, like the Talking Heads, because the Talking Heads took a lot of the same influences and did it in a smart way.

What's really impressive about Vampire Weekend at this point is how early on they've settled into what's already an unmistakable sound. You hear just a little snippet, and you know - or you will know that that's Vampire Weekend. And that's impressive for a band this young, a band that, you know, really, has been doing this two or three years.

And so I think all that sort of clean cut, preppy, you know, Afro-pop, all that - all those words that are thrown at them right now that, you know, that are accurate, are going to eventually drop away and it's just going to be, wow, there's a new Vampire Weekend record.

GALLIANO: All right. So Vampire Weekend may be the next big thing. The next artist, I think, we have on your list is Chris Walla. He's guitarist for the former and still, actually pretty big thing, Death Cab for Cutie. His solo effort is called "Field Manual."

Now, I have to say, the average Death Cab fan will probably tell you that the band's ace-in-the-hole is - or at least their most identifiable sound is Ben Gibbard, their vocalist. How does Walla fare on his own?

GALLIANO: Well, Walla sounds a lot like Death Cab for Cutie.

(Soundbite of laughter)


GALLIANO: Which is the whole point here. I mean, it's a solo record that I think reinforces that Walla is responsible largely for the sound of Death Cab for Cutie. And this is his "Postal Service." Ben Gibbard, who you mentioned, went off and did the "Postal Service." This is his stake of hey, you know, look at what I contribute to Death Cab because when I do this alone, this is what it sounds like. And it's pretty much, you know, note for note, Death Cab for Cutie, which isn't a bad thing. And it's, you know, breezy and it's ambient, and it's all the things that people go to Death Cab for.

GALLIANO: All right, let's prove it. We will listen to this song. It's called "Sing Again."

(Soundbite of song, "Sing Again")

Mr. CHRIS WALLA (Singer): (Singing) It was not tricky to enjoy. A cigarette in hand was the key to understanding. To seek out or to destroy the mindless oversight, a string of faithless nights. We sing again, sing together with quiet eyes. I'd lower my chin to my chest. I thought that would be best.

GALLIANO: Well, that's just lovely.

STEWART: Didn't Chris Walla - didn't he produced the Tegan and Sara record?

GALLIANO: Is that right?

Mr. LANGER: He did and…

STEWART: He did, right?

Mr. LANGER: …he's a producer of some note. I mean, you know, he played every instrument on this record, produced it himself…


Mr. LANGER: …you know, there's a - I mean, the back story to this record is better than the record itself, which is the hard drive that he was mixing it on got seized at the Canadian border, at customs.

GALLIANO: Oh, man.

Mr. LANGER: And he almost lost the record to the government. And at one point, he had to, you know, at one point, he said, they could be waterboarding my drive.


(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: You know - he eventually got it back and made his record, but you know, that story's actually better than the record. The record's, you know, it's good. I'm not sure that anybody needs it that's not a Death Cab die hard, and I'm not sure it's the songs are good enough for it to be much more than a curiosity.

GALLIANO: All right. Well, moving on.

Willie Nelson is a little bit more than a curiosity, I think we can agree. To give you an idea of how long he's been around, the Patsy Cline classic, "Crazy," Willie wrote that. I think that's circa 1961 or something. This week, he's releasing his four-millionth, nine-hundred-billionth album, I think it is. Has he got some classics left in him? Is this worth a listen?

Mr. LANGER: Yeah. I mean, Willie's Willie. And Willie at 75 - he turns 75 in April - there's something about, you know, Willie's voice at this very moment that's as authentic as it's ever been. I mean, he's, you know, he sings these songs that are about, you know, these dirges about death and aging and dying. And there is something to it now. I mean, Willie's voice is really reverberating on, you know, there's this Dave Matthews cover of "Gravedigger." And you've got, you know, Willie, at this point, yes, is capable of turning out more classic material.

GALLIANO: This is sounding a little reminiscent of Johnny Cash in those later years during his covers of Nine Inch Nails, and now you hear all the age behind it. And all of a sudden, all of the songs are informed even more by just his longevity.

Mr. LANGER: Yes. And hopefully Willie's a little healthier.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GALLIANO: I don't think it's too hard to be healthier.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: Oh, yeah.

GALLIANO: Well, all right. Well, let's hear an example of this. Shall we hear "I'm Alive?"

Mr. LANGER: Yeah.

(Soundbite of song, "I'm Alive")

Mr. WILLIE NELSON (Singer): (Singing) It's so damn easy to say that live so hard. Everybody's got their share of battle scars. As for me, I'd like to thank my lucky stars that I'm alive and well. And it ain't easy to add up all the pain and all the dreams you said I'd watch go up in flames. Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain, but not me. I'm alive.

GALLIANO: The thing I always love about Willie Nelson is that there's so, you know, there's so little behind his voice. He's not pushing it. He's not a belter. He's not a Johnny Cash with a whole lot of swagger. But it just - it always works, and it's been working for decades. It's amazing to me.

Mr. LANGER: Yeah. And it works in such a variety of settings. And in this case, it's working despite the fact that shirtless Kenny Chesney is producing this record. And…

STEWART: Really?

Mr. LANGER: …by the time - what?

GALLIANO: Is he actually shirtless?

Mr. LANGER: Probably. What doesn't he do shirtless? The kind of band that Chesney's using here, this really slick Nashville band is the kind of band that Willie ran away from national to go to Austin for. And he goes back, works with Chesney here and the results are, you know, they're mixed. I mean, there's some stuff that's just too slick. But there's also some stuff, you know, just a real simple country song called "You Don't Think I'm Funny Anymore" that, you know, is just funny as anything Willie's ever written. It's an instant classic. And then there's, you know, his interpretative skills. I mean, he does Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody."

GALLIANO: Oh, yeah.

Mr. LANGER: He does that Dave Matthews tune. It's, you know, Willie in a variety of settings, and most of them are good.

GALLIANO: All right.

We'll go to something - from something oldish to something not exactly new, but it's new to all of us here in America, the British singer/songwriter, Kate Wallace's album is released stateside today. Now, she's experiencing, from what I understand, one of those Phoenix rising from the ashes kind of careers. Do you want to tell us about this?

Mr. LANGER: Yes. She put a song up on iTunes in the U.K. that ended up becoming the Single of the Week and it went from there. I mean, basically, every new artist right now has the same story, either they put something on MySpace and it spread virally or…

STEWART: Mm-hmm.


Mr. LANGER: …they put a song on iTunes and it became Single of the Week and they sold a bunch of records. I mean - and that's what's happening in the U.K. for her. And she got a song here on "Grey's Anatomy." She's Kate Wallace, the singer, not Kate Walsh the actress who stars on "Grey's Anatomy."

(Soundbite of laughter)

GALLIANO: Let's be clear.

Mr. LANGER: Because that's not confusing enough. And, yeah - and it's, you know, the idea is can they translate here what's happening over there.

GALLIANO: Well, let's see. This is a little clip from one of her songs. It's called "Fireworks." The album is called "Tim's House."

(Soundbite of song, "Fireworks")

Ms. KATE WALLACE (Singer): (Singing) It's that time of year I can think I'll stay in tonight. My dogs are barking, shaking, scared. We don't like fireworks in this house.

GALLIANO: Very pretty. I have to ask you, very quickly, is this something that we can handle over the course of an entire album, or are we going to fall asleep?

Mr. LANGER: Yeah. I was just going to say my coffee was finally kicking in, and then you played that. But her voice is clear and, you know, it's a low-key record. And that's the thing, it's to showcase for that really clear voice she has.

GALLIANO: All right.

STEWART: Music to brunch by.

Mr. LANGER: Yes.

GALLIANO: Excellent.

Mr. LANGER: Slowly.

GALLIANO: Andy Langer, speaking of breakfast, we got to go get some. A pleasure, as always.

Mr. LANGER: Thank you.

GALLIANO: Thanks for guiding us through on new Music Tuesday.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: You've been listening to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.

A couple of shout outs. The show is directed by Jacob Ganz, edited by Tricia McKinney. Our senior producer: Mr. Matt Martinez. Sharon Hoffman is our executive producer.

I'm a host - I'm Alison Stewart.

GALLIANO: And I'm Rico Galliano, another host. Hurray.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GALLIANO: We are always online at


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