May 7, 2013
Review: Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City

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Vampire Weekend
Modern Vampires of the City
XL

Remember their firstalbum? Let me remind you. The year was 2008, your MySpace profile song was Crystal Castles' “Crimewave”, Kanye West wrote a sad record about being sad, Kings of Leon were dubbed “Best New Band!!!11OMG!!” by the entire world and the best thing to ever grace your ears was Cut Copy's In Ghost Colours. Yes, it was. No, it wasn’t MGMT's Oracular Spectacular, shut up you’re wrong. Don’t argue. Suddenly, a song called “A-Punk” came out of literally nowhere and threw this New York indie band into the spotlight, with a rapidly growing fan base of button-up shirt wearing teenagers armed with iPods and DIY music “blogs”.

Vampire Weekend's self-titled album was eleven tracks of wholey unexpected raw, fun. Koenig's poetic, yet sometimes frustratingly inarticulate lyrical style was so interesting and so well accompanied by the simply raw percussion and guitar dynamic, that captured a feeling so evocative of upper-class New York, Ivy League school life. That was the point. Listening to Vampire Weekend today, you immediately forget that it was released well over five years ago.

2010 brought Vampire Weekend's second album, Contra. Contra was almost an extension of 2008’s self-titled, howevera little louder, a little more produced, and admittedly, a little more brilliant. It was the album VW fans wanted. It was still just as powerfully expressive of New York luxury, but rather more… popped collars and short tennis skirts.

In the world that existed between the two records, people actually bought CDs, you barely ever heard of albums being “leaked” on the Internet, torrents weren’t a thing, vinyl manufacturing and sales were still niche and expensive. Somewhere between Fleet Foxes' self-titled and M83's Saturdays=Youth, a new scene was unknowingly emerging. It was an unbalanced combination of dance, folk and indie that later ignited successful debuts by acts such as The Temper TrapFoster The People, and Of Monsters And Men.

I mean, you could blame Vampire Weekend for (re-)triggering the plague of organic coffee-drinking, Pitchfork-reading, vinyl-collecting, hipsters. Today the same bunch of kids would deny ever liking VW after the release of Contra. But all that aside, without exaggeration, I absolutely think it was records like Vampire Weekend's self-titled that sparked the novelty of producing and collecting vinyl (for the masses). It was cool.

Yet there’s something just as cool about Modern Vampires of the City. It’s a breath of fresh air for these (graduated) New York punx. “Obvious Bicycle” opens the record so unexpectedly, immediately you can grasp the fact that they’ve moved on from NY college pop. It’s different. It does still touch on the themes and sounds of the first and second records, but it’s supressed, and not as in your face. But will VW fans like it? Maybe. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely worth a couple of listens to start with… you might just have to forget the second record ever existed.

Modern Vampires of the City is an honest and logical next step for Vampire Weekend. "Step", although it may sound like a song written by any other band, Koenig’s vocals make it sound so comfortable and natural for a band who’s forte was fast college pop. Amisdt the moderate-paced tracks is an almost nostalgic, thrilling "Diane Young". The song escapes predicable style of the band, and shows off what VW are capable of. Surprisingly this is one of my favourite tracks off the record. You could play it to a VW fan and they’d have no clue who they were listening to.

"Ya Hey" if fucking fantastic. This was the first track I had heard off Modern Vampires of the City, and I immediately wanted to hear more. Arguably, “Ya Hey” does sound like it could’ve been released off the back of Contra, yet it’s one of the most experiental moments of the new record. “Finger Back” is a remarkably haunting take on “A-Punk”, it’s striking similaries bring the record back to the band’s raw basics. This could be the most “Vampire Weekend-y” Vampire Weekend song off the record. “Young Lion” closes the album with a simple and delicate harmony that sounds like it could’ve been written decades ago and sung by a high school choir in a church.

Modern Vampires of the City has perfect timing. As I find myself less and less excited for new records by artists I so dearly loved just so very few years ago, it’s so hard to pinpoint a 2013 record I honestly enjoyed. Vampire Weekend ticks most boxes here, although the record lacks a standout single, it’s consistent and shows off the band’s progession and sophisticated songwriting.

Best tracks: “Step”, “Diane Young”, “Ya Hey”

7.5/10

Modern Vampires in the City out 13 May through XL Recordings.

J.L.

  1. royalheadache reblogged this from fortyfivethirtythree and added:
    Here’s my review. Doing music blog shit again. Enjoy.
  2. fortyfivethirtythree posted this