Modern Vampires of the City

May 29, 2013 by

 

I bought into the mythology of Vampire Weekend when Other Music released their first singles in 2007.  Trumpeted by the venerable NYC record store as the next big thing, tracks like A-Punk and Oxford Comma boasted a rehashed sound but drew from sources that no one had tapped yet. Their image was rounded out by the back story of Ivy League kids of privilege who were likely conceived with Graceland playing in the background.  With their oxford shirts and blazers, Vampire Weekend refreshingly didn’t pretend to be anything they weren’t.  

As their sound smoothed out with their first self-titled album and further evolved with Contra, I felt uneasiness about the band.  Commercials, coffee shops and even kid birthday parties: they were inescapably everywhere.  While they deserve to get paid for their work, I quickly tired of the brand they were selling. And I suppose I am not alone.  Comedian Chase Mitchell tweeted of their third record, Modern Vampires of the City, “Did you know if you hold a penny loafer up to your ear, you can hear the new Vampire weekend album?”

As much as Mitchell wants to denigrate Modern Vampires as being nothing more than a preppy white party, listen to the album and you will find his glib tweet lacking.  From the opening gentle invitation to listen on ‘Obvious Bicycle’, to the closing baroque ‘Young Lion,’ Vampire Weekend has crafted a beautiful record.  While never studio slobs, they clearly stepped up the production so much that I would call this their first “headphone listen.”  Notice the vibrating piano notes of ‘Obvious Bicycle.’  Likewise, the noisy Celtic kaleidoscope on ‘Unbelievers’ rewards close attention.  While mid-tempo songs like ‘Step’ slow the pace without meandering, the band is at their best when they flip the switch and is at its fastest. ‘Diane Young’ is the most rocking song they’ve made, with dense, loud drums outshining the pseudo-rockabilly vocals.  

 

 

 

The spaz rhythm of ‘Finger Back’ packs a nice punch until it unfortunately devolves into spoken word with an odd accent, one of the record’s few missteps.  They make up for this flaw quickly though with the stomp of ‘Worship You.’  

They haven’t totally abandoned their bread and butter Paul Simon brand of Africana overlaid with wealthy northeastern references.  The yelps and guitar of ‘Ya Hey’ will be a comfort to any longtime fan adverse to change, as will lyrics like, “you got the luck of a Kennedy.”  I would only expect their fan base to grow with Modern Vampires in the City though, as it’s easily their best album and certain to be listed by many as album of the year come December.  

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