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Monday, January 11, 2010

Contra Vampire Weekend

Contra Vampire Weekend

Album Contra

by Vampire Weekend

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1. Horchata

2. White Sky

3. Holiday

4. California English

5. Taxi Cab

6. Run

7. Cousins

8. Giving Up The Gun

9. Diplomat's Son

10. I Think Ur A Contra

# Audio CD (11 Jan 2010)
# Number of Discs: 1
# Label: xl recordings

New York City's Vampire Weekend made a huge impact on the indie music scene in early 2008 with the release of their self-titled debut album. Seamlessly blending afro-pop with indie rock, they return with 'Contra', a record bursting with a refreshing enthusiasm for experimentation, forward thinking and, above all, talent. Surf guitar is scattered around the record, while single 'Cousins' shows off the bands liking for up-tempo quirkiness and clever lyrics.

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Reviews Contra Vampire Weekend

Opening track Horchata will be grist to the mill of the doubters with its subject (a Mexican rice drink) and rhyming - balaclava and aranciata to name but two. For the converted, along with tracks like White Sky, Holiday and the guitar driven Cousins, it is a track that could have come from their previous album, providing more of the same if that's what you're after. Where they depart there are some huge hits and perhaps the odd miss. Some of the tracks that had me worried on my first listen have already become amongst my favourites. One still remains at the risk of being skipped each time though. One day some kind of judicial process will bring Auto-tune to trial for crimes against music but until that time we will have to endure more experiments with it like California English. It is followed however by the beautiful Taxi Cab in which frontman Koenig employs those beautiful, effortless, Paul Simon tones, backed by strings and later harpsichord. How's that for Ivy League!

The thing about Vampire Weekends debut was that it came out of leftfield like the proverbial bolt from the blue; it was intelligent and inventive stuff and seemed to be an active partner to that other uber smart record of that time MGMTs "Oracular Spectacular". Erza Koenig's lyrics were witty and songs like "A Punk" could soundtrack romantic comedies.

While the essential features of the Vampire Weekend sound are here this album is noticeably different to signal progression. But is it better or worse for this?

Overall the sheer hedonism of their debut is missing which may not be a negative. You can have too much of a good thing and the band must develop. Not that the first track "Horchata" suggests a radical new departure. Indeed this could have happily sat on the debut while "White Sky" sounds like it could be included on a remix album entitled "Graceland with Synths". At a pinch so could have "Cousins" but which nevertheless shows how the band is maturing. It's the most frenzied guitar driven song on an album which relies more heavily on percussion and synths. Clocking up 2.25 minutes it's a great choice for a single.

Firmly in the "different" category are three songs. Firstly the albums clear highlight is "Taxi Cab". This is a slow beautiful bubbling pop song with some classical overtones and a lovely vocal by Koenig. If this is the new direction for Vampire Weekend I would vote for it! Similarly the sister song to "Taxi cab" is the title track "I think you are contra" a song of such dreamy pop that Beach House could have recorded it. It has a lovely melancholy quality and is about as far from "Walcott" or "Mansell Roof" as its possible to get. Finally many reviews have already named checked the Clash's Sandinista when it comes to "Diplomat Son" which is a 6 minute plus bouncy ska epic that the band just about pull off.

The same cannot be said for other songs such as "California English" which is a bit Vampire Weekend by formula and the very lightweight "Holiday" which is just a bit silly. "Contra" has a few low points and is therefore not quite five stars. That said it is by any standards a very successful sophomore effort on which many other new bands have struggled and failed. Vampire Weekend by this criteria may have a longevity and durability to become one of the major bands of the next decade. Enjoy.

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