Music » Album Review

CD Review: Vampire Weekend's Modern Vampires of the City;

XL Recordings; Release date: May 14, 2013



Since the release of its self-titled debut in 2008, Vampire Weekend has wooed listeners with its unique and catchy brand of hyper-literate, quirky Ivy-League pop. Despite critical accolades, the band has also carried a college radio/teenybopper stigma through its 2010 release, Contra, which has challenged the band's legitimacy. However, with its new album, Modern Vampires of the City, the band breaks from these young confines.

Of all of the album's elements, vocalist Ezra Koenig's lyrics show the most maturation. His prior young-punk intellectual challenges and celebrations of youth are still present, but most of the lyrics focus instead on the deeper theme of aging. "Step" features the most poignant of them, as Koenig sings that "Wisdom's a gift, but you'd trade it for youth/Age is an honor, it's still not the truth." Like the album as a whole, the lyric accepts growing up as a positive and necessary change, but realizes that it's good to hold on to some aspects of youth as well.

On "Ya Hey," "Step" and "Diane Young," the band tastefully uses electronica — applying it only to highlight melodies and accentuate rhythms. That contrasts its prior role as a tacky foundation that marred Contra.

Also on Modern Vampires, a new, stripped-down side of the band continues the sense of songwriting maturation. "Obvious Bicycle" and "Young Lion" utilize layered, Paul Simon-esque harmonies on top of simple, percussive instrumentation for a deep and emotive effect unlike anything the band has previously done.

Vampire Weekend's evolution from its first album to its second was a disappointing foray into trendiness, but the release of Modern Vampires effectively squashes that turn — showcasing a maturity which cements the band's legitimacy without relinquishing its young energy or catchiness.

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