Monday, 20 May 2013

Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires Of The City

Vampire Weekend have done it again. With ‘Modern Vampires Of The City’ they have created a beautiful, infectious and strange record. And ‘record’ seems the right word. It is the last chapter in a trilogy, a record of the lives of characters first visited on their self-titled debut in 2008. It is a chapter sound tracked by tracks laden with hooks, peppered with infectious rhythms and more measured harmonies and melodies. Singer Ezra Koenig’s voice is also shown off to a greater extent on this record than any other. And it really does sound effortless. 

As usual, their lyrical focus is intellectual and sometimes downright obscure to the average listener, especially on first listen. But that is the joy with Vampire Weekend; their music can be understood- or not- and enjoyed on many levels: the harmonies, the hooks and the strange percussion or the classics influenced, religious referencing and historical allusion heavy lyrics. And there’s plenty of both. There are the typical flashes of Vampire Weekend lyrical brilliance, like the fantastic ‘stale conversation deserves but a breadknife’ on the stately, harpsichord heavy ‘Step’. There are also moments of lyrical universality, for example on ‘Unbelievers’, ‘the world is a cold, cold place to be/ want a little warmth but who’s gonna save a little warmth for me?’ 

This album, though still having that quintessential Vampire Weekend sound, is definitely stranger than those preceding it, most notably thanks to the prominence of chopped, screwed and auto tuned vocals throughout. One of the teaser tracks for the album, ‘Diane Young’, a hyperactive stomp which is just plain addictive, uses this technique, as does the beautifully weird ‘Ya Hey’, with particularly manipulated vocals. (They will stick in your head for days and they are almost impossible to replicate out loud). Another new touch is the use of spoken monologues during the songs; ’Ya Hey’ and a particularly beautiful example of forbidden falafel shop love in ‘Finger Back’. And it works: it’s these touches which move the record on from the previous ones, while fitting the band’s signature commitment to intelligent, strange, slightly wonky pop music. 

In true Vampire Weekend tradition, the album is a mix of fast and furious tracks and slower, more leisurely ones. ‘Hannah Hunt’ and ‘Don’t Lie’ are examples of the latter, ‘Hannah Hunt’ being particularly beautiful. The piano-lead ‘Young Lion’ is also a slower number and at under 2 minutes, is a perfect, simple close the album. ‘Hudson’ is probably the strangest song on the record, a slightly menacing tale accompanied by broken up military tattoo drums. The verses of ‘Worship You’ shows Ezra spitting lyrics at a properly impressive speed, and follows on nicely from songs like ‘California English’ on the previous record. 

‘Modern Vampires Of The City’ really is a triumph. It is as infectiously strange as it is beautiful and it surely is a contender for album of the year (yes, already!) 


Holly Read-Challen

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