Sunday, January 24, 2010

CONTRA-Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend
Label-XL Recordings
Status-Out as of 2010
2nd Studio Album
Rating-4 feathers

From the start of their career, Vampire Weekend were one of the few bands that were nearly unconditionally critically acclaimed. Hoisted so high on the indie pedestal, when it came time for them to make a second album, many thought that there was no way they could pull it off again. Well, they have. With a significantly mellower sound, and slightly more synthesizer in place of guitars, Vampire Weekend are back with their sophomore album “Contra”.

The carefree “Horchata” starts off the album with their signature bubbly synthesizer and vocals. It’s an inspiring and powerful beginning that will leave you singing “Here comes the feeling you’d forgotten” long after it’s over. “Holiday” offers you the same immensely catchy and bouncy synthesizers that you’ve come to love about Vampire Weekend, except with much more force and massive sing-along ability. There are very few things to really despise about this album, especially after hearing the last few songs. However, there’s usually something, and that something is “California English”. It’s like the “One (Blake’s Got a New Face)” of Contra, except the violently annoying part is the irritating use of auto-tune. It makes it almost unlistenable. The only redeeming part of it is the clever lyrics, except you’d never know that unless you were reading the booklet; the auto-tune obscures them that badly. “Taxi Cab” conveys the exact opposite of what the last song did. It’s like a sadder, and significantly more somber “I Stand Corrected”. Both the slight but effective cello and the non-falsetto singing makes it that much more moving. “Run” is nicely upbeat, and provides you with endless hooks. The fuzzy drums and fanfare punctuated by the new synth creates a bittersweet yet very bright symphony of sound. “Cousins” is all over the place, but in a good way. It’s completely manic and never ceases in force, and it’s amazing that they kept the frantic sound so tight. Then you have “Giving Up the Gun” which is the perfect example of their maturity as a band. They combine a reflective attitude with a grandiose mix of synthesizers and glittery sound effects that swell to build their most epic and encouraging song so far. With songs like that on this album, “I Think UR a Contra” is a pretty disappointing ending. I don’t like what Ezra does with his vocals and the dreamlike echoe-y instrumentation in the background makes it just way too fantastical for me. Also, the grand piano really doesn’t sound right. At the end, when it sounds like the instruments are breaking down, that’s when it finally gets interesting.

As a whole, Vampire Weekend have created a pretty good answer to their debut. It’s a very mellow collection of songs all of which embrace rawer synthesizers and a fuller sound. However, they did completely rid of their minimalist and baroque pop sound in exchange for a sometimes annoying electronica sounding one. Yet, I applaud them for building on their sound and for still sounding as fresh as they did two years ago. I have no doubt that future albums will continue on the same bubbly and brightly paved path.

"It's easy to write a song that just takes down easy targets--there were songs like that on the first album, though some people misinterpreted them. It's more of a challenge to write a song that's about compassion toward people that you disagree with or people that represent something you think is rephrehensible."-Ezra Koenig

Video for Cousins

Recommendations: Horchata, Holiday, Run, Giving Up the Gun
Vampire Weekend's Official Website
NOTE: YAY! I wrote a review. Start thinking of this as a more regular thing again. Next up is Spoon. In regards to the album, I really didn't like White Sky. I know it was a song they've played for a really long time, but I'm just not convinced on it's greatness. I hope you enjoy!


Ian France said...

Excellent review Double Hawk! You're becoming a better writer with each post, and I love to see your style grow and take shape.

Double Hawk said...

Arnie: Thanks so much! I really appreciate it!