Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City

Posted May 17, 2013 by in Indie rock



5/ 5


Producer: ,
Genre: Indie rock
Producer: Rostam Batmanglij, Ariel Rechtshaid
Label: XL
Format: Digital download, comapct disc, vinyl
Time: 42:54
Release Date: 14 May 2013
Spin This: "Unbelievers," "Step," "Diane Young," "Ya Hey," "Everlasting Arms"


With new tricks to play with and a wealth of songs that's so digestable, VW pulls off one of the year's finest records


A bit broody lyrically, but you'll get over it.

Third times a charm on Vampire Weekend’s brilliant indie-rock opera

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Third times a charm on Vampire Weekend’s brilliant indie rock opera

How Vampire Weekend inherited an earshot to the masses in such a short period of time remains unclear, but seems traceable. Exploding out the gates with their self-titled album and its critically-acclaimed follow-up Contra, the four college gents from Columbia University were successful in carving out their own niche by blending Paul Simon baroque traits, highbrow lyricism and a large palette of world music decked out with an indie rock sensitivity. Then smart licensing took them to their core audience, gamers were dancing away to “A-Punk” on Just Dance and cranking their plastic guitars on Guitar Hero. With the sudden popularity came a bit of resistance from those too stubborn to turn them loose from their humble beginnings. For today’s indies, this kind of popularity comes with its own curse: You are forever judged and compared to what made you so popular.

As the band jumps into their third set – one they have called the end of a trilogy, listeners will learn quickly that Ezra Koenig and his supporting cast of vampires are smart enough to take proper precautions in not pulling off exact replicas of their past. They are dabbling with new tricks including pitch bends, vintage analog and the unique usage of multiple recording studios. These tricks work in differentiating the set from the previous two albums. Sure, Vampire Weekend is still recognizable, but the elevated push for innovation gives the crew something fresh to play with, while also giving the songs a much needed transition towards a befitting finale for this so-called trilogy. It should also be noted that the band members are now approaching the threshold of adolescence. Everyone knows that turning 30 is the last frontier of youth. That squirm is duly noted throughout the disc, but particularly revealed on the dreamy hip-hop-tinged “Step” when Koenig sings “wisdom’s a gift, but you’d trade it for youth.” Mortality is the common vernacular on Modern Vampires of the City and is done so with art and poetry in mind. “Unbelievers,” a hell bound love anthem floating on the pigtails of Buddy Holly lo-fi soul, makes room for a couple’s eventual check-in to hell, but does so with a wryly almost-atheistic humor: “I’m not excited but should I be/Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me?” This is possibly the album’s greatest achievement in defining a pertinent standout, but there’s plenty to enjoy. The hymn-like ode “Everlasting Arms” and the simple soulful piano-drum arrangement of “Obvious Bicycle” are easily to pick out as favorites, but the crafty titled “Diane Young,” while exposing their play of subliminal code, cranks out some of their jangly rock and categorically defines the modern day indie-rock radio anthem all the way down to its catchy Elvis-like chorus: (“If Diane Young won’t change your mind/Baby baby baby baby right on time.”) Playful pitch shifting decorates the loopy chorus, showing they aren’t exactly the dried up prunes they’re complaining to be. The same pitch experiments happen on “Ya Hey,” which grants them a sing-a-long akin to the Lumineers’s “Ho Hey.” They inject both Chipmunk-sounding backing vocals and an inaudible angelic choir into the chants, creating something boldly interesting. But the lyrics once again drag you past the good vibes. Not enough to start taking anti-depressant pills, but enough to tell you that Modern Vampires of the City is more stark, gothic and broody than their previous workouts. “Ya Hey” is clearly the antithesis of “Ho Hey.” It’s a pleasure to hear, but lyrically feels as if it was arranged by the Grim Reaper. Immediately following it comes the dark and morbid “Hudson,” which plays like a ghostly Danny Elfman piece stroked by Julian Casablancas. But all of this is part of the story as Vampire Weekend makes the radical transfiguration from indie rock icons to art gallery tour guides.

There isn’t a lot of that familiar African guitar band sequences here or those uncanny folk rap anthems aboard, even though “Worship You” smells like “Horcuta” leftovers and “Finger Back,” besides Chris Tomson‘s punchy drumming, appears to be a distant cousin of “A-Punk.” But the album never feels like it’s gone so left-field in its pursuit to be different, nor does it feel claustrophobic in its isolated cave of darkness. In what they have called the end of a trilogy, Modern Vampires of the City is propped up as a hearty farewell to youth. These former Ivy Leaguers are ending this series on a far better note than most saccharine vampire novel sagas. Every new challenge grants them even more bragging rights over their fellow contemporaries. And it’s enough to prove the outsiders aren’t strong enough to box their limitations. This album is definitely the exclamation point to the sentence.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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