Vampire Weekend create a modern triumph

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By Jocelyn Cote
Reviews Editor

Today, May 14, indie rock sensations Vampire Weekend release their latest album, Modern Vampires of the City. The New York City natives have become forerunners of the city’s indie scene since their formation in 2006. Both their 2008 self-titled album and 2010 follow-up Contra have achieved both chart and critical success, and Vampires is set to continue that streak.

Style-wise, the album picks up where Contra left off. The band has expanded upon its original straight guitar/bass/drums formula to include more electronic elements such as additional layers of synthesizers and artificial beats that only add to their already unique sound.

Lyrically the album shows a maturation of the band – while previous efforts often dealt with frivolous affairs, Vampires deals with more serious subjects such as death, questioning the world, and even borderline religious undertones.

The album’s opener, “Obvious Bicycle,” begins with an ominous ticking sound as vocalist Ezra Koenig croons, “Oh you outta spare your face the razor / ‘Cause no one’s gonna spare the time for you.” It’s certainly a mellow way to start off a Vampire Weekend album, but sets the scene for how the listener will spend the next 45 minutes.

Standout track “Unbelievers” follows, and steers the album in yet another direction. Here, the band returns to its “classic” sound filled with piano flourishes, fast-paced vocals, and a simple yet catchy synth line. Double-A side singles “Step” and “Diane Young” follow, the latter being especially noteworthy. Upbeat and catchy, “Diane Young” grabs the listener if they haven’t been captured by the album already and makes it hard to resist the classic “baby, baby, baby” refrain.

Vampires features a fairly even amount of slower songs and memorable dance numbers. A couple of highlights include “Hannah Hunt,” which details a cutesy tale of two lovers moving cross-country and the delightfully raucous and jarring “Finger Back.”

Interestingly, the album ends on a much bleaker note than ever before. Penultimate track “Hudson” is brooding and grim, with lyrics that paint a picture of a city in shambles. However, the final track, “Young Lion,” is a glimmer of hope. The single repeated line of “You take your time, young lion” accompanies a simple piano line and bass track, letting the listener know that in the end, all is not lost.

The album’s biggest flaw is its use of exaggerated vocal effects, especially on lead singles “Diane Yong,” “Step,” and “Ya Hey.” In the two former songs, it is still discreet enough to be considered bearable, but by “Ya Hey,” the backing vocals are nearly ‘chipmunked,’ taking away from what is otherwise a strong single.

Aside from this, the album is a true accomplishment and is already a strong contender for one of the top indie albums of 2013. It is extremely well-crafted and thought out, and is filled with catchy earworms and future classics that make the listener want to press the repeat button over and over.