Vampire Weekend

Contra

Written by: DR on 25/01/2010 19:38:34

Love them for their originality, or loathe them for being so in-your-face-upper-class that they make those kids from Gossip Girl seem poor, but only a fool would deny that Vampire Weekend were one of the biggest success stories of the decade just passed. The members met whilst attending Columbia University; they self-produced their debut album whilst they all worked full-time jobs; they were declared as Spin Magazine's "The Year's Best New Band" in 2008, and were also the very first group to have ever appeared on the cover before releasing an album. Singles from their eponymous debut frequented many Top 100 lists, and were that rare breed of music to actually bridge the gap in mainstream tastes between American music and British music by achieving considerable success either side of The Pond.

"Contra" is the second-coming of their fresh indie sound that draws obvious influence from Paul Simon and African music; the result being nothing short of interesting, at the very least. There's beauty in the apparent simplicity of Vampire Weekend, personified by frontman Ezra Koenig. His vocals are, on the whole, soft and warm, even if he does dabble into auto-tune territory in "California English". This is vocal synthesiser you'll bare though, as he doesn't sound like those talentless clowns that rape the pop charts who use the stuff to hide the fact they cannot actually sing, if anything, it would sound odd if he hadn't donned the robo-voice. His lyrics further prove there is beauty within simplicity, as he rhymes "horchata" with "balaclava", and then with "Aranciata", and then again with "masada".

First single "Cousins" was my first experience of Vampire Weekend, ever. It features frantically sunny guitar lines, as Koenig even dares to send his voice away from the gentle approach that dominates most of the album, and into more-standard indie territory by surging towards a catchy chorus. It provides a hollow satisfaction, "Cousins", as it's one of the best songs on the album, and as it was my introduction to this quartet, I was hoping for more of the same. It's not to be, unfortunately, which is a shame, because they do it tremendously well.

Don't just pick it up and expect to get this right away, it's detailed and layered and only after a good deal of patience will interest turn to enjoyment. Koenig, at all times, has a grace about him. There's a unique talent to him - he manages to make lines like "The little stairway / A little bit of carpet / A pair of mirrors that / Are facing one another / Out in both directions / A thousand little Julia's / That come together / In the middle of Manhattan." melt in your ears. A thoroughly joyous album, that lacks boundaries and ignores conventions; nobody else would dare attempt something like this, it's why Vampire Weekend are so great, and why they stand alone as true originals.

8

Download: Cousins, Giving Up The Gun, White Sky
For Fans of: Ra Ra Riot, Passion Pit, The Shins
Listen: Myspace

Release Date 08.01.2010
XL Recordings

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