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When Vampire Weekend premiered the “Diane Young” and “Step” videos the public had only heard one song off the upcoming Modern Vampires of the City, a live version of “Unbelievers” that (naturally) fell flat on TV. I remember sitting in the music office and nervously watching. “Diane Young” worried me. The burning Saabs were visually striking and the song’s wacky production was intriguing but the song didn’t grab me. I hoped for more out of “Step.”

If you’ve followed an artist as they’ve grown, you know the feeling I got during the “Step” lyric video. My excitement slowly blossomed as the song moved from its well-weathered hook (more on this later) to the kind of snare kick-off that’s been effective since “Like A Rolling Stone.” What followed was classic Vampire Weekend: beautiful harpsichord runs, a lilting melody and grade-A lyricism but this was not the scrappy kind of VW tune that would fit on their debut. “Step,” moreso than any other single, hinted at the carefully refined, subtle charm of Modern Vampires of the City.

It didn’t take long for me to latch onto “Step.” I began to appreciate its subtleties, especially Ezra Koenig’s lyrics. Koenig’s always displayed a love for mellifluousness but now he’s combined that love of pleasing lyrical runs with a newfound sense of direction. You might want to check out the ambitious Rock Genius interpretation. For any other lyricist, the interpretation might seem somewhat of a stretch, but Koenig has a history of multiple meanings, allusions and self-referential lyrics. It’s a song about maturity, leaving a love behind, music as a whole, New York City and Vampire Weekend itself.

Its hook is worth mentioning as well. The band has always been interested in music history. They’ve detailed diverse record collections in interviews, openly shared their love of pop music before that became an indie pre-requisite and enjoyed a long love affair with hip-hop. “Step” reflects that love. The chorus borrows heavily from Souls of Mischief’s “Step to my Girl,” a demo that samples YZ’s “Who’s That Girl.” “Who’s That Girl” in turn samples a Grover Washington Jr. cover of the Bread song “Aubrey.” Elements of all three blend in “Step”’s hook.

Modern Vampires of the City is the mature, definitive statement Vampire Weekend’s been capable of all along, and “Step” is one of its finest songs. Throughout 2013, I would throw the song on when I needed to feel inspired. As I’ve prepared for life beyond college, it’s made me feel like the next chapter of my life will be the most exciting yet.

– JJ Posway

Here’s my full Top 25 Songs of 2013 list if you’re interested:

25. “Without You My Life Would Be Boring” – The Knife
24. “Smoke Again” – Chance the Rapper (ft. Ab-Soul)
23. “Thor’s Stone” – Forest Swords
22. “Side B (Dope Song)” – Danny Brown
21. “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk (ft. Pharrell)
20. “You might think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for it’s your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat” – Death Grips
19. “Meow” – Anamanaguchi
18. “only tomorrow” – My Bloody Valentine
17. “Versace” – Migos (ft. Drake)
16. “Dust in the Gold Sack” – Swearin’
15. “Recover” – CHVRCHES
14. “Afterlife” – Arcade Fire
13. “Sugarcrush” – Joanna Gruesome
12. “Brother Bryan” – Waxahatchee
11. “PrimeTime” – Janelle Monáe (ft. Miguel)
10. “Slasherr” – Rustie
9. “Tuscan Leather” – Drake
8. “When A Fire Starts to Burn” – Disclosure
7. “Perfectly” – Ryan Hemsworth
6. “Dream House” – Deafheaven
5. “Shabba” – A$AP Ferg (ft. A$AP Rocky)
4. “Mute” – Youth Lagoon
3. “Blood on the Leaves” – Kanye West
2. “Play by Play” – Autre Ne Veut
1. “Step” – Vampire Weekend

 

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