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There is a sculpture of the Adventure Time rainicorn in the Atlanta CNN studios lobby

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Saying “move closer” twice sounds childish on purpose, but we are childlike as we move toward the mystery. The repetition, really more like texts circling around one another—think the reference to Spiral Jetty on “Giant”—evokes stepwise motion like Bill Murray’s “baby steps” in What About Bob?, arguably a better close encounter with Richard Dreyfus than his starmaking turn in whatever.

They are still separate beings even as they move toward the same final goal. But only because they are still alive! In the inexorable march toward death they will be one. Koenig has mentioned several times that he admires the beauty of the story of the prodigal son returning home. Note that tense does not really change for a while here. Even if the next part is an imperative, it’s still them connected in the present, which is in fact the near future. That said, because the couplets' feet don’t match — the first line has four stressed syllables, and the second three, as in traditional hymns — “you” and “I” never quite meet as one for now…


Probably coincidentally, though more thematically resonant-ly, Koenig’s friend Alexander Benaim, apparently thanked in the liner notes of MVOTC, joked in his 2005 culture year-in-review for the Yale Herald, written on assignment for MoMilli, that that year was great because “it brought me one year closer to my death.” Keys open doors of perception !

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He’s just goofing off here, but think about the implicit rhyme with “expunge,” with water as purification versus water as infinitely deep dark ocean.

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If you’re gonna talk about Vampy Weeks and commas, why not talk about this beautiful interpolation here? But who gives a rat’s ass about non-defining relative clauses with commas like brackets or parenthesis? Parens just don’t understand!

Think here of the couplet as a device uniting linguistic “friends.”

Former presidential candidate John McCain, mocked in presidente delicto as geezer pro tempore, is infamous for using “my friends” as a patronizing descriptor, even a pejorative. Vampire Weekend was conspicuously absent at Barack Obama 2012 reelection campaign events compared to peer musicians/actors/acts. By which — corporal acts of mercy.

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“Yes” infuses a didactic air to the text, or hints that the author is a premature old soul. The poem is offered as a psalm or sermon to Koenig’s Twitter followers, who are largely half a decade or more younger than he is and certainly of a different generation.

Beginning with “yes” is kind of like Brian Wilson and Tony Asher beginning “God Only Knows” with “I may not always love you” to undercut the darkness of the sermon that follows. Recall that one version of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s first meeting, eventually resulting in the spiritual communion of Plastic Ono Band that was said to have inspired Rostam Batmanglij’s production style on Modern Vampires of the City, was of Lennon reading her microscopic installation of the word “yes” on the ceiling of the Indica Gallery in London. So an upward climb at the beginning foreshadowing the “plunge” into the abyss.

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Some people new to Ezra Koenig’s writings wonder whether or not he is literate when they read his Twitter feed. His style and usage is pretty consistent, at least since the formation of the band, and it’s not exactly the same as txt-speak or the Carles spelling and punctuation conventions, either. Some of his tween Tumblr fans have successfully traced him using a few of the tics (e.g. “ur”) back back way back in high school (but then who wasn’t?!). The spacing between the sentence and the exclamation point is now convention in his works and either started from a smartphone typo or imitated Modernist poetry. It lends each declamation an epiphanic quality.

Unless his settings are different than the standard on this OS X, the font is enlarged from Helvetica 12 preset to Helvetica 14. Something something the “zoom” as god’s eye gaze. Is this decision to maintain Swiss typographic and characterologic severity for Sixties NYC transit map directionlessness, or for Hipster Runoff nihilism, or for anti-Semitism, or for nothing, or for this grander idea that after death there is, mayhaps, nothing? Either way, note that death means larger font, that death is more !

The ampersand adds Gilbert and Sullivan style light opera Mikado Orientalist flavor and amplifies otherwise dull (if deep) word choices with rhythmic heft. The mark is shorter than the word, and that cuts deep! But the additive effect mimics the accumulations of aging and nostalgia, which is the subject of basically every Vampire Weekend song ever recorded. Meaning “dull” like a pomo Prufrock spiritually reduced by a culture out of sync !

While this annotation is about intertextuality and metatextuality, this joke is dumb and represents the worst excesses of Rap Genius that are not literal retellings.

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With the addition of a syllable, the first real break from the intended meter ! Here the narrator becomes skittish and reveals his nerves at the change ahead. This really sounds like “strap your hands ‘cross my engines” from “Born to Run,” except the running against time takes on a whole new urgency and disassociation from northern New Jersey. (Do Turnbull and Asser or Thomas Pink lapels from the Mall at Short Hills count?) Lapels don’t have to evoke the “preppy” label — think of it more like falling in <3 into a chasm via rappelling harness for two on a one-on-one date on The Bachelor — but really he means like clutching at a tie or a suitjacket to choke oneself off by the pressures of adulthood. Or to clutch them in an effort to steal a coin brooch for the river fare across the Styx? Let’s be serious !

Seriously, one cannot know.

Think of lapels as evoking water lapping, sonically at least.

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This is the sort of neat diction turn where an MFA graduate might take note of Koenig. Up to here, the writer takes on the persona of a self-conscious hack. Right here, he reappears as a diamond in the flesh. It would be just as easy to say “stare down death.” Instead, he evokes the three-headed ancient Greek “hellhound” Cerberus — itself a callback to Chronos, as Time as we know it ends with the entry into hell and is itself represented by a man, bull, and (mad young) lion. Perhaps a reach here, but going back to the Japanese anime thread on death in the song explanation, there was an early Eighties adaptation of Ulysses that could very well play in here (or not). The economy of the spelling also punctuates the hymnal meter better, kind of like he did for Major Lazer and the Mad Decent label.

Easy enough to visualise, no? Had to urbandic the exact assozch. It’s an anagram for “god dam,” about staring somebody down in preparation to fight the archangels ! (Koenig’s Montclair, NJ high school ska band was supposedly called the Sophisticuffs.) So, like “staring down death.”

Shine on, you crazy diamond! Are we missing a Dark Side of the Moon reference here?! Kidding, it’s “shorter of breath and one day closer to death” from “Time.”

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Here Koenig turns to psalmic anaphora to move toward Led Zeppelin or Myst gaming bro-inspired Seventies post-boomer New Age spiritualist lexicon. This is not baptism in the water, but transitory movement through water. A generic—or not, you tell me !— reference to life phase transition and cause and effect, like the clarity one achieves from the crossing over to death. Note that he can only move outside himself — the “I” of the first couplets — in death. And couplets themselves as relaish mergers, as literary devices. And ourselves as prey to the whims of spirits using us to fulfill their own inscrutable devices, using artificially intelligent devices, a frequent subject of Koenig’s recent tweets.

The disembodied narrator of “California English Pt. 2” asks, rhetorically, “Are our parents actually Buddhist? Is the pool below me the bluest?” Koenig’s ethnically, culturally Jewish parents are nominally Buddhists. “Nominally” as in he has said in interviews that they practice(d), but it’s not our bizness how much !

In honor of Koenig’s thirtieth birthday, Rostam Batmanglij tweeted an old picture of Koenig in repose (?), possibly in college. So Jobsian! (Like Hobbesian?) There’s not really a direct comparison, but in many of his lyrics, “California English” most immediately, Koenig plays around with cultural signifiers tied to the hypocrisies/basic well-meaningness of the East-meets-West corporate conquest of cool. Jobs is its best known ambassador.

Does this imperative somehow evoke Steve Jobs' youthful assertion to Chrisann Brennan, Jobs' high school gf/earth mother of his first daughter Lisa, that they were both members of the Wheatfield Group descended from Dylan Thomas? (Jobs prophesied his own death at a young age and aspired to reunion with his prelapsarian self on, literally, an Edenic Oregon apple farm commune called the All One Farm.) According to Brennan’s memoir The Bite in the Apple, Jobs claimed to to her that he had studied under Vipanassa meditation guru S.R. Goenka, when in fact he just heard his friend from Reed College went, then reappropriated the story as his own because they were both in India at the same time and same diff, right? “Same diff!” is what some dope kid at Yale said about Wordsworth and Coleridge in a transcendent Romantic poetry seminar in fall 2004, and you know where the latter’s opium got him…

At one point in the late 1970s, Jobs was into denying himself the waterfall of orgasm to save creative capitalist energies. He dabbled with coercing Brennan into tantric sex after washing her down in his parents' backyard with a garden hose, then anointing her with Dr. Brenner’s scented peppermint oils. She refused.

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At a 2014 Grammy preparty (ROC Nation preparty brunch)

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"Got a Bass in my left hand, yeah!" (Hannibal Buress – Gibberish Rap) | pending

I actually thought of Bass shoes apropos of the previous line about “I ain’t got no shoes on.” Bass saddle shoes, milky bucks or suede shade maple — yeah we on that upper middle class outlet shit, such a home office staple

"I'm a cookie monster" (R. Kelly – Cookie) | accepted

R. Cookie

"Low vitamin D levels" (WrathOfGod – Germanically Speaking) | pending

Environmental epidemiologists equivocate on the Vitamin D deficiency issue — tough call how much to freak out about it, but can’t criticize happiness or sun

rap game sabina spielrein

Amazing — can i guest verse?

"Michelle Branch" (MetaWorldPeace – Day 7: Paradise Cafe) | pending

A Yale classmate claimed to have befriended Michelle Branch on a Hanson online message board, cf. “putting on airs.” (She wasn’t actually lying; it’s just absurd and cute.)

"1. Cultish brainwashing vibes" (MetaWorldPeace – Conclusions, Criticism) | pending

START ONE — Rent on Kent could use a people’s temple

"She had no wit" (Morrissey – Open Letter About Margaret Thatcher) | accepted

Christopher Hitchens claimed she smacked him on the bum with a rolled-up parliamentary memo pretty saucily, but who knows. I don’t think it makes her any funnier.

"You got into Wesleyan" (Mahbod Moghadam – Rap Genius Das Racist Freestyle Diss) | rejected

RapGenius programmer/CEO LEMON will sometimes call half-baked arguments “sub-Wesleyan” (he and Maboo both graduated from Yale)