Vampire Weekend return with worldly mix of instruments impossible to hate

Vampire Weekend return with worldly mix of instruments impossible to hate

Rating: 5/5 Paws Label: XL Recordings

Mikayla Larson, Editor in chief

On a bleak day in January amid an equally bleak music industry, it seemed unlikely that four Columbia University graduates would once again find the ideal combination of lyrical complexity and upbeat yet folksy melodies that would captivate an entire genre. In doing so, Vampire Weekend made a subtle re-entry into the music scene with the release of its sophomore album Contra, which has since become a definitive staple in the band’s discography. Although the band has remained relatively obscure, a rise to the top of the charts seems inevitable for Vampire Weekend.

Contra’s first track, “Horchata” begins with a recollection of a frigid Manhattan winter and progresses into thinking of lost love retrospectively (“Here comes the feeling you thought you’d forgotten, you understood that you shouldn’t have fought it,”). An array of classical instruments swirl together with stomping drums and an angelic choir of backing vocals to create a medium in which vocalist Ezra Koenig explains his predicament.

Early in Contra it is apparent that Koenig develops and supports most songs with a worldly mix of instruments ( and his own whimsical voice, demonstrated in full effect on the song “Run”.
Featuring quickly paced lyrics about a desire to escape “worlds away from cars and all the stars and bars” with only a loved one and a radio, “Run” is an energetic song that uses horn arrangements to embed itself in the listener’s head. This song ends abruptly yet still transitions seamlessly into the seventh track, “Cousins,” which has guitar work reminiscent of, and as intricate as, Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut. The album’s seventh song begins with a string of nonsensical lyrics (“You found a sweater on the ocean floor, they’re gonna find it if you didn’t close the door”) and then quickly evolves into a chorus complete with heavy percussion, fleeting guitars and shouting that somehow doesn’t sound hectic.

Arranging songs on an album is an important task, and Vampire Weekend smartly placed Contra’s three best songs back-to-back. “Giving Up the Gun” is a fast-paced, Japanese history-inspired wonder that speaks of Koenig’s youth in a simplistic way (“When I was seventeen…I felt complete, does a chance remain to see those better days?”) while partnering with a fleeting synthesizer line. The addictive and dancehall-esque “Diplomat’s Son” explains the tale of an unsteady friendship for a staggering six minutes, then blooms into the slow and painfully honest closing song, “I Think Ur A Contra”. Spelling errors aside, Vampire Weekend have composed a song that finally captures the youth and emotions of their fan base in an inexplicable way. Phrases such as “You wanted good schools and friends with pools…I just wanted you,” are sung over a trembling guitar riff and later joined by xylophone and tambourine harmonies.

After listening to Contra fans will likely agree that consistency and impeccable technique have helped Koenig and Company to create a memorable and complete album.