Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Vampire Weekend - 'Contra'

Vampire Weekend
(XL Recordings)

VAMPIRE Weekend’s 2008 self-titled debut album was a breath of fresh air to an ever-so-slightly arid music scene - particularly that emanating from uptown New York, where Ezra Koenig and co come from.
A bouncy, joyous infusion of Afrobeat and Caribbean rhythms, smothered in some delightfully juicy indie-pop tunes, with super-intelligent lyrics, VP felt like music’s equivalent to Wes Anderson, that eccentric film-maker who has done much to disassemble modern movies. Twisting genres, playing with beats and offering such delightful titles as Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, Vampire Weekend offered an erudite and genuinely innovative take on indie rock-pop music, and it is safe to say they have come up with the goods on the supposed difficult album number two.
‘Contra’ is a delight, the New Yorkers replacing the earlier, almost adolescent, urgency with a confident maturity; as their ability has expanded, so too has their musical depth and confidence. All of the same elements are here in abundance; Afrobeats? - check; funky, indie-pop? - check; witty lyricisms and word-play? - double-check.
Opening the album with Horchata is an inspired decision; using the illustration of a sweet, milky traditional Mexican drink, set against a jumble of xylophone melodies and soaring drums, is pure pop-genius. “In December drinking Horchata/I’d look psychotic in a balaclava,” sings Koenig. The delicate bass and muffled handclaps of White Sky can’t disguise the strong Paul Simon-influence, and likewise is the moment you know this is a band at the top of their game.
The bizarre mumble of California English is at odds with the soothing rhythms and cellos on Taxi Cab - an early standout track - while that first-album frenetic energy returns on Cousins.
But it is the areas where Vampire Weekend digress ever so-slightly from their winning formula that are the most appealing on this album; notably the electro-samples employed on ‘Run’ - filled with undulating, off-kilter melodies - and the hugely impressive Giving Up The Gun, which retains that iconic sound, yet is backed with an electro-drum beat.
Finally, the dreamy-floaty soundscapes of final track I Think You’re A Contra, sees Koenig's vocals at their most relaxed, and Vampire Weekend flexing an orchestral muscle previously unheard.
The news is good; these Vampires are alive and well, and the future looks promising for their further development.

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