ARTIST Vampire Weekend
ALBUM Modern Vampires of the City
RELEASE DATE 14 May 2013
10 | 10
The time has come, the clock is such a drag. All you who change your stripes can wrap me in the flag. – “Hudson”
The kids are alright. Along with The Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend was the band to break through the hype machine of the blogosphere and actually see success in more qualitative forms, such as album sales and endorsement deals. In fact, it was only a couple years ago Vampire Weekend was duking it out with The Black Keys on The Colbert Report as to which band was the bigger “sell-out.” So it comes as a surprise that three years after their previous, Billboard 200 chart-topping sophomore album, the band has all but stripped away the stereotypes of what a Vampire Weekend album should sound like and created an album that’s a masterclass display in melody and musicianship.
The opening track is all you need to hear to know that this isn’t your freshman year’s Vampire Weekend. “Obvious Bicycle” is a fantastic introduction to this more fleshed out sound, and lead singer Ezra Koenig’s much more confident vocal delivery, first hinted at on the highlight of Major Lazer’s Free the Universe (2013), “Jessica,” is clearly evident. He sinks into the melody as he coos, “You better spare your face the razor, because no one’s gonna spare the time for you … It’s been twenty years and no one’s told the truth.” Throughout the album the band hits on the theme of the length people will go to be noticed, wanted, accepted. It’s an unattainable goal, as Koenig later sings, “The fatherland don’t love you, so why love anything,” on the excellent “Ya Hey.”
Each song here is a highlight as the band digs into unearthed sonic territories courtesy of producer Ariel Rechtshaid. His production track record is quite eccentric, as he’s worked with everyone from Usher (“Climax”) to Charli XCX (“Nuclear Seasons”) to Plain White T’s (“Hey There Delilah”). While his list of collaborations makes for an odd pairing on paper, he does as much to push Vampire Weekend’s sound as the band’s own Rostam Batmanglij, whose own production credits continue to grow more impressive each year. On the breathtaking “Hannah Hunt,” the pace slows drastically, with the song acting as an ode to the Dominant Legs frontwoman. Koenig plaintively sings, “even though we live on the U.S. dollar, we live on our own since of time,” before the song builds to a glorious climax with Koenig belting, “If I can’t trust you, then damnit, Hannah. There’s no future, there’s no answer.” “Worship You” is the album’s battle cry, sounding like a raved-out Scottish funeral procession. On “Finger Back,” the band creates the most Vampire Weekend-sounding song here, the musical cousin to “Cousins.”
Lyrically the band finds themselves at their most revelatory and interesting, and they didn’t have to name drop Lil Jon once. On the aforementioned “Ya Hey,” arguably the band’s best song yet, Koenig belts out the chorus, “Through the fire and through the flames, you won’t even say your name. Only, ‘I am that I am.’ But who could ever live that way,” interrupted after each line by a high-pitched vocal proclaiming the song’s title. Invoking biblical references is nothing new in art, yet the confrontational approach Koenig takes, as well as throwing back Yahweh’s own words at him, puts this song in the same league as Modest Mouse’s “Bukowski,” where Isaac Brock spits, “God, who’d want to be such an asshole?” On “Unbelievers,” Koenig sings the excellent line, “I’m not excited, but should I be?” He’s willing to alter his own feelings if that’s what you want, even though he’ll remain, till death, an “unbeliever.” “Diane Young” is the sound of the band having more fun than ever before. Koenig transforms into the best Elvis impersonator as he reaches deep into his register to sing, “Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, right on time.”
The band’s progression from Vampire Weekend (2008), in which they were the eager lowerclassmen eager for world exploration, to 2010’s Contra, an album featuring the band as the more grounded upperclassmen, to their newest collection, with the band finding themselves over-educated and under-appreciated, is an arc seldom travelled by any 21st century band. They have gone from living solely through our computer screens to inhabiting every aspect of modern society, creating an album ready to be heard in sold out stadiums, your morning commute, those nights spent alone and the days surrounded by your friends.