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music -> Vampire Weekend Review

Vampire Weekend Review

Modern Vampires of the City

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Ivy League indie rock is in full swing as Vampire Weekend is set to release their heavily anticipated third major record label album, “Modern Vampires of the City.”

The cover is an infamous photograph by Neal Boenzi that was taken in 1966 in New York City (the photo is poisonous smog.  It killed 169 people).

The band has made some waves in the past, being dubbed “Best New Band of the Year” by Spin magazine in 2008.  In 2007, Rolling Stone ranked “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” fourth in the list of “100 Best Songs of the Year.”  In 2012, they were even put on a list of musical artists and groups that President Barack Obama was attempting to gain support from for his presidential campaign.  All of this (including a certain amount of respect amongst the indie crowd) has generated hype aplenty. 

The album opens up with a slower, melancholy song titled, “Obvious Bicycle.”  It is a well-written, somber song packed with subtle and subdued verses and a minimalist approach to the drum part (it works by keeping it simple and highlighting the heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics).  That’s the lifeblood of this one.  Even though the “woe is me” song style isn’t typically my bag, I must admit that this song really hit its mark and proved to be a good choice for the opening track.

The second track, “Unbelievers,” opens up with an organ over a steady tempo (a hallmark of the style that catapulted Vampire Weekend to fame years ago).  It’s a nice, bright catchy song that is a throwback to the band’s early days.

The album is filled with a vast array of new experimental types of instruments.  At times, it feels like the band is trying to cross over into a new sound with the back and forth between synth-driven melodies while still staying true to the well-placed classical piano oriented melodies that are just as prevalent throughout the album.

“Diane Young” caught my attention as the song that could capture the attention of the masses much like “A-Punk” did years ago.  It is an upbeat, full-of-energy track that screams single louder than any other song on the album.  Like most of the album, the song features many experimental sample-ish parts that break the mold of all the typical pop bands formula.  There is even a point where the pitch changing vocal effects (in “Diane Young”) put out a Ween vibe (I am guilty of being a huge Ween fan.  So, as far as comparisons go, Vampire Weekend can do way worse in my book).

“Modern Vampires of the City” is a major step forward for a band that is atypical of successful pop-sounding groups and an even bigger step further in the evolution of the unorthodox and hard-to-define style of Vampire Weekend.  What I’ve come to find about this album (after examining it a few times over) is that every song on it is different.  There are parts where piano is the catalyst in the songs, others where the song is being driven by percussive elements and of course, plenty of poppy choruses (I know what you’re thinking, but there aren’t any cookie cutter or carbon copy methods occurring here.  There is even a strong presence of pitch shifting throughout).  While the concept of the album sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of so many different instrumental approaches, it is an overall worthwhile listen.  It’s unique to say the least.

So, would I buy “Modern Vampires of the City?”  I say, indubitably. I would buy it and I would play it in abundance.  It may not be a flawless record, but it’s full of good songs and bold songwriting by a ballsy (Vampire Weekend took a big risk of losing fans by diving so deep into the samples), talented band. I had my doubts about Vampire Weekend having another good record in them, but it appears that they have more to offer the world of music than I initially thought.

Keywords: Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
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