Vampire Weekend album review

Is Vampire Weekend's new album, Contra, any good?

Music feature


It takes balls to be this dainty. Against a doily of precisely arranged guitar tweedles, lead singer Ezra Koenig suddenly bursts into an effeminate yelp on ‘White Sky’, as if he were being covered in tarantulas. The early highlight of a sharpened and comfortable second effort declares that, after being branded whimpering yuppies and Afropop thieves, Vampire Weekend are going to boldly embrace their Vampire Weekendness.

In the two years since the quartet’s heralded debut, other subsequent hyped acts have taken the term ‘buzz band’ too literally: they slather wishy-washy lo-fi with tape hiss and bury languid oohing and aahing under veils of distortion. There is no such ambiguity to Vampire Weekend. Contra tightens up and boils down the band’s concise and meticulously composed white-boy rock. Despite its 21st-century mélange of world rhythms and new-wave pop, this is an old-school record that prioritises the voice. Koenig’s clear chirp, quirks and all, sits atop minimal ingredients.

Keyboards and chamber instruments may now predominate (this is a second album, after all), but each track is still a study in restraint. Piano twinkles over echoing synthetic snare in ‘Taxi Cab’, while ‘Run’ is mostly drums and digital bass burps. Mellower overall, the new songs come coloured with lyrical details like the names of fonts, private schools and diplomats. Bitching about the group’s upper-classness is akin to shaking a fist at Wes Anderson for not directing more slasher flicks.
Brent DiCrescenzo
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