The first time I heard Vampire Weekend’s “Diane Young” lit up dormant parts of my 20-something mind. The song was delightful and eerie, like an indie-rock electric-shocked rockabilly ditty, littered with lyrics as clever as its double-meaning name. It was March 2013, and the first glimpse of the New York band’s third album, “Modern Vampires Of The City,” hit me like a speeding Saab. It would take me a few more years to make it professionally, but I immediately hit the internet to write my passionate stance on the dizzying track.
At the time, my channel of choice for musical dissection was the easy-to-scroll and reblog platform, Tumblr. Along with countless other self-proclaimed fangirls, I’ve spent my days reposting high-res photos of my favorite bands, commenting on posts with unreadable admiration, and writing dissertations based on a single line of lyrics. If you identified as someone with an irresistible desire to connect with like-minded people who were obsessed with music and equally disenchanted with the aging process, the music released that year was an embarrassment of riches. “Pure Heroine” by Lorde, “AM” by Arctic Monkeys, the 1975 self-titled album, were all available for the soundtrack to my quarter-life crisis, and strangers I only knew by names of user they had pulled from their favorite tunes were there to heal me and sympathize with my quest to go to one more show.
When we weren’t swapping tour itineraries in hopes of taking our friendships from online to real life, we were stocking our closets with clothes that matched the “soft grunge” aesthetic of the era. Tumblr, lining up for concerts in leather jackets decorated with enamel pins. , donning red lipstick and bringing the lyrics to The Neighborhood’s 2013 hit “Sweat Weather” to life by shaking “small high waisted shorts”. Unlike Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in the early 2010s, where writing down your thoughts felt like shouting into the void, or worse, at your high school relatives and friends, Tumblr engendered a sense of community, where you couldn’t just talk to an audience but In fact to feel heard.
Vampire Weekend’s first two albums, 2008’s self-titled LP and 2010’s ‘Contra’ introduced the world to four friends wearing Columbia University polo shirts eager to write about class and status on infectious tracks steeped in ‘Afropop. With their third album, however, they opted to shed the subject matter and sound of their previous releases for more nuanced storytelling and complex musicality.
“That music was exciting,” frontman Ezra Koenig wrote in a heartfelt Instagram post on the album’s anniversary. “It was a far cry from our more ‘studio album’. ‘MVOTC’ didn’t have songs like ‘A-Punk’ or ‘Cousins’, which started out as riffs and started to come to life in the rehearsal room. It is an album of more deliberate composition and detailed, patient recording.
The risk of turning in another direction paid off. ‘MVOTC’ debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, NME named it one of the 50 best albums of 2013, it won Best Alternative Music Album at the 2014 Grammys, and it ignited a music-writing spark in me that would continue to burn for years to come.
I had no purpose in mind as I filled my days watching Vampire Weekend explain their music via YouTube interviews or re-listening to the shaky ballad “Hannah Hunt” before researching whether it was a real person or of a story that Koenig invented from scratch. (the correct answer is both). There was no real readership outside of my internet friends to consume my deep dives on the Baroque-inspired treatise on religious existentialism ‘Ya Hey’, but the amount of study I devoted to these articles finally paid off when I learned of my desire to find out how and why the songs that came into existence could be put to use in a career. Unbeknownst to me, the fan-driven Tumblr community was a gateway to the music industry, and I’m not the only one who walked through it.
Take for example Hannah Jadagu, independent upstart and recent Sub Pop signee, who cites her nostalgia for the internet fandom of Tumblr, Vampire Weekend, and HAIM, who released their debut “Days Are Gone” in 2013, as integral influences that have shaped her career, even though she was 10 years old in the site’s heyday and didn’t experience it in real time. There’s also Melbourne-based artist Daine, who discovered bands like American Football and Turnstile on Tumblr, before joining his local hardcore music scene IRL.
I’m far from the only would-be writer who, while looking for a place to share their angst, creativity, and enthusiasm for music, found not only a home for their writing on Tumblr, but lifelong friends. . When I asked my Twitter followers their thoughts on “MVOTC” and its reign on the Internet, I received several confirmations. “The origin story of one of my oldest internet friendships is being on Tumblr and sharing our love of Vampire Weekend,” Edmonton critic Caitlin Joey replied. “I lived on Tumblr from 2010 to 2013,” Toronto-based culture writer Jill Krajewski quickly added. In 2017, the blogging platform’s “golden age” was over, thanks to Yahoo’s takeover and strict security guidelines. Many power users of the platform left the site, feeling limited in what content they could share. In recent months, with Twitter seemingly headed for a similar fate, many writers have singled out Tumblr as the place to immigrate, but it’s hard to imagine it could generate the same connection and magic that we witnessed ten years ago.
Author, producer and cultural critic Jessica Hopper once wrote, “Replace ‘fangirl’ with ‘expert’ and see what happens”. For so many of us, who just wanted to repost the amazing lyrics, “Wisdom is a gift but you would trade it for youth” from the swaggering track “Step” alongside the black-and-white album art of “MVOTC” of a fog-filled New York skyline, got to experience “what’s going on” firsthand. It’s hard to say if I’d be writing this now if it wasn’t for the tight-knit Tumblr community that let me shamelessly test my words on them or the mind-blowing album that made me want to be a better conduit for what I was listening to. Luckily for me, I’ll never know.