Thanks to an incredibly generous HD, I was able to see Vampire Weekend when they played Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel in early February. Given all the hype, I expected them to both bore and hurt, but I was surprised (yeah, yeah, the album is on my To Listen list).
I thoroughly enjoyed the show, but quickly noticed two aspects of the band. First, they are clearly young. Their sound is bare and minimalist (but not in the good German way), needing to expand, be filled in, and evolve past the rather simple structure of each of their songs. That part’s doable and standard.
The other issue, though, is that the lead singer (Ezra Koenig) has no flow. All of their songs are delivered in the same monotone post-Brit pop way. While the nasality of it all is loved by the birds and very trendy, the lack of tempo, note, and style changes–in other words, flow–is not. Even in the whitest of white genres, indie rock, (good) bands usually have lead singers with a bit of flow. And those outstanding bands have lead singers with amazing flow. In this latter case, the best example I can think of is Karen O, who uses incredible significant and nuanced vocal/flow changes within a song, between songs, and across albums (Admission: I listen to the entire YYYs discography once every 36 hours, on average).
It would be difficult to argue that flow does not matter to all music with vocals, but we rarely think, hear, read, or write about its importance outside of hip hop. At best, there is mention of the singer’s voice, but that usually has to do with energy, clarity, and pitch, not the more general but also more specific notion of flow. So here’s my purely rhetorical question: Why?