Monday, January 11, 2010

Music: "Contra" by Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend was recommended to me shortly before their self-titled debut was released in 2008. For whatever reason, I felt the need to openly join the hate parade that came with the band’s early success while secretly loving everything about them. I began to question my motives and soon realized that I had no reason to be critical of the fact that they dress like Fred from Scooby Doo. They were doing exactly what good music is supposed to do: make me happy. Two years later, Contra picks up right where the band left off, and in many ways, is even better than the debut.

The word Contra implies conflict as well as multiple cultural references such as the classis video game of the same title. It’s fitting in that there seems to be a theme of conflict through the album. Whether it’s a conflict between groups of people (“Run”) or between two individuals (“I Think Ur a Contra”), there is definitely a sense that all is not well despite the bouncing electronic beats and orchestration.

The addition of fuller electronic elements in the songs on Contra is probably the biggest difference between this album and the debut. They add more variety and avoid some of the predictability caused by the first album’s heavy use of strings. As great as the orchestration was on Vampire Weekend, Contra will translate better in a live performance because it doesn’t rely on a string quartet as much.

One of the standout tracks is "White Sky." It has one of the best ooh ahh choruses ever and a vibrant beat to back it up. “California English” has a rushed energy to it that is revived with an auto-tuned break. The previously mentioned “Run” is empowering and a great introduction to the second half of the album. “Cousins” shows up surprisingly late in the album considering it’s the first single. It has jagged guitar work similar to “A-Punk” from the debut with the addition of frantic sing-along yelps. Definitely an interesting choice for a first single, but a great track nonetheless. Other songs worth noting are “Diplomat’s Son” and “I Think Ur a Contra” which close out the experience.

As much as some people probably wanted to see Vampire Weekend fail at being able to match the quality of their debut, they are going to have to either wait or give up. Contra is proof that these guys are worth paying attention to and it more than justifies the hype. 2009 had an early contender for album of the year with Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. Contra could very likely do the same in 2010. When you see the year end lists, just remember I called it!


Anonymous said...

I heard the whole album yesterday, it was a little different but still lovable. They experimented a bit, i think thats great it gives each song its own unique style, unlike the first album which pretty much sounded the same but was great for a debut. Yay!!

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