The Stories in Songs (e.g. Vampire Weekend’s ‘Step’)

I love songs that tell stories. I am always amazed when a song with 2 verses a chorus and a bridge can tell a story as detailed and engaging as most 500 page novels. The best songs have characters and location and plot. Vampire Weekends ‘Step220px-Vampire_Weekend_-_Modern_Vampires_of_the_City’ has all of these things. It is about the experience of someone who progresses from living in the past to looking forward to the future, his relationship with his family and friends and “…punks huddled on Astor”, and it takes place in New York, where all great Vampire Weekend songs seem to be set.

It starts out with the main character remembering times past, things that he used to do. It starts with the line “Back, back, way back…”, reminiscing about the way things were. The light begins to dawn about half way through that maybe we remember things better than they actually were “…actually Oakland and not Alameda…,” and finally realizing that we need to stop living in this place the no longer exists and perhaps never did (“I was a hoarder but girl that was back then.”)

The second verse is someone living exclusively in the present (“I just ignored all the tales of a past life…”). This is someone who is coming to terms with who they are and what they want to be, someone who is becoming less concerned about other people’s plans for their life and more in tune with their hopes and dreams. People in his life are telling him what to do (“The ancestors said there girl was better…”) but he is not inclined to let them dictate his life anymore (“…stale conversation deserves but a bread knife.”)

In the third verse the protagonist is looking to the future and finding hope in what tomorrow may bring; finding peace in the fact that as we grow older we gain things that are more exciting that our physical abilities (“Wisdom’s a gift…”). However, he also realizes that just because we are older everyday does not mean that we have to give up just yet (“We know the true death, the true way of all flesh, everyone’s dying but girl you’re not old yet.”)

I wrote a blog a while ago about the LCD Soundsystem song ‘All My Friend’ and how I felt that the song could have been written about me. With Vampire Weekend’s  ‘Step’ I feel like the song was written around me because I could be every character in the tracks narrative. The main character is someone who gains an understanding that life cannot be lived in the past and that life has so much to look forward to, but I also resonate with the ‘Ancestors’ of verse two who try to limit the main character to the “way things have always been done,” and the muse of the song who mourns her youth and is frightened because she is not getting any younger and she feels as if she has so much left to accomplish.

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About themusicandtheart

New Hampshire resident with interests in music, literature, films and baseball.
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