All this week, the writers of Christ and Pop Culture unveil their 25 most loved things of 2013.
Previous #3: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
#2: Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
When I first heard Vampire Weekend’s previous effort, Contra, I found it pretentious and indulgent. No matter how much friends of mine championed their music, I couldn’t get over how cheap it all felt. Modern Vampires of the City still feels a little cheap: it asks huge questions and blows them off as being impossible to answer. Still, it’s the one 2013 album I keep going to again and again. I think it has something to do with the way the album deals with the difficulty of believing in God in the modern age.
In “Ya Hey,” Ezra Koenig sings “You won’t even say your name / only ‘I am that I am,’ but who could ever live that way?” The song is a play on the divine name Yahweh and Exodus 3 where God met with Moses through the burning bush. It’s almost as if Koenig is saying that if God had wanted him to believe, He should have answered the question directly. Koenig sings about his knowledge that “the fire awaits unbelievers” and asks “is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me? But what Holy water contains a little drop for me?” This theme of spiritual ambivalence is repeated in “Everlasting Arms”: “Hold me in your everlasting arms / looked up full of fear, trapped beneath the chandelier that’s going down.”
It’s these moments when Koening speaks of longing for a drop of holy water and to be held forever that tell us that there is more to the story of Vampire Weekend than a pretentious Ivy League pop rock band with a blatant disregard for the divine. They are actively struggling with finding comfort in the religious promises they can’t bring themselves to believe in.
Modern Vampires of the City asks questions that Christians need to take the time to answer for themselves and for the good of those around them.
The “Millennial Unease” of Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City
Next #1: Breaking Bad