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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Vampire Weekend – Contra – Album Review

Sink Your Teeth Into, The New Album From Vampire Weekend

Written by Andy Devine

vampireweekend-contra3All images courtesy of Vampire Weekend.

Vampire Weekend released their debut album almost exactly two years ago today and those two short years have been very good for the band. Amongst other things Rolling Stone declared it the 10th best album of the decade. They have also picked up numerous awards and excited column inches from all over the music world.

When I first started hearing the buzz about Vampire Weekend I was a little dubious; I generally am whenever a band gets so much acclaim before they’ve even put an album out. However, drugs view I soon became a fan, after I heard the ska-esque track A-Punk in a club, which instantly had me running for the dance floor.

After getting hold of a copy of the album I was impressed with how different they sounded compared to anything else I was listening to at the time. The afro-beat sound fused with an indie sensibility married to interesting lyrics about Grammar, university and love struck a chord within me and the album soon became a favourite.

With the release of their second album, Contra, it’s time to see whether all the plaudits are justified. It’s a generally held opinion that the second album of a bands career can make or break them. They’ve often ploughed all their ideas into that first release and detractors are waiting to pounce on a band and claim that they’re ‘one trick pony’s’. Is this the case with Vampire Weekend?

The answer is yes, and no. Anyone who is familiar with their style will certainly recognise opening track Cousins, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on their debut.

vampire-weekend-opt1

However after that one concession to their past they start to mix things up like on I Think Ur A Contra which gives the guitars a rest to focus on a simple drum beat and piano over which Ezra Koenig sings a plaintive song about his mistrust of someone he thought he knew.

The track which really breaks from tradition is Giving Up The Gun which has an 80’s vibe with throbbing synth and female vox. The tracks are generally stripped of any of the previous Vampire Weekend sound; the guitar is almost completely absent from the album. Instead they use plenty of programmed beats, piano, and string sections. The only thing that would make these songs recognisable to the casual listener is Koenigs’ vocal style which remains unchanged.

Personally I think the decision to excise the guitar sound from a lot of the songs has a negative effect on them. Most of them sound half finished, and the album leans too heavily on the use of synths and piano, which would have more effect with some stirring guitars to add depth to the music. Alternatively if they had fully embraced the African sound they incorporated into to the first album they could have been onto a winner.

It does show that they’re not afraid to try something different though. They could have easily churned out a copy of the first album with a few new bells and whistles. The creative well isn’t yet dry but it could probably do with a top up.

Vampire Weekend play a special instore at Rough Trade East on Friday the 15th of January. For more information look here.

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