Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Record Label: XL Recordings
Release Date: May 14th 2013
New York indie-pop band Vampire Weekend was a band that I was never hugely into, for whatever reason. A couple years ago, I managed to snag some free credit on Amazon’s MP3 store, and I always love it when they do that, because I can get a couple single songs that I’ve been meaning to check out, but I noticed that they had an album of the day thing going on. That album was sophomore record Contra, which I downloaded for $1.99, and coincidentally the free credit I had was for $2, so it was quite a steal, because I basically got it for free. It was a very solid indie-pop record that was a little too short for my taste, but it was still great, nonetheless. Fast forward to the present, and the band has gotten much more popular since Contra. Fans were eager to listen to the band’s third record Modern Vampires of the City. Despite the odd title, when first single “Diane Young” was released, fans went insane. It’s understandable, because it’s not only a great single, but one of the best tracks on the record itself. Don’t let that fool you, however; while Contra was a very energetic affair that was only about 36 minutes, Modern Vampires of the City clocks in at about 43, which is not a bad length. In fact, it’s perfect length for a record of its caliber. It’s a very breezy, relaxed, and “chill” indie-pop record. There are a few energetic and fun songs like “Diane Young,” which is a play on word for “dyin’ young,” but there are also slower songs that haven’t shown up very often in the band’s discography. It also seems as though the band is slowing down, and showing listeners a more “mature” side of them. That’s great, because I’m all for progression and maturity. Not that the band’s first couple records weren’t mature, but they were pretty straightforward indie-pop, yet still enjoyable. There was something about them that just drew people in, whether it was vocalist Ezra Koenig’s signature voice that very well compliments the music itself, or their very quirky brand of indie-pop that meets reggae and aftrobeat. When someone mentions indie-rock, this is easily a band that most people think of, because despite being gone for the last few years since Contra’s release, Vampire Weekend has managed to stay quite relevant, including a performance on SNL on May 11th 2013, where they performed “Diane Young” and “Unbelievers.” This performance was where I got a bit more acquainted with both songs, and they were both performed quite well. If anything, I got much more eager to listen to it. With that being said, however, let’s take a trip into the city to listen to this record, shall we?
The record starts off with “Obvious Bicycle,” and if there’s one thing that Vampire Weekend seem to be known for, it is their odd choice of song titles. Nonetheless, this song starts off rather slowly. It’s a rather quiet song, as a lot of the songs on the record are. It’s quite somber, but the melody is sweet and melancholy, with vocalist Ezra Koenig’s boyish voice to keep the song moving forward. One thing that is missing from this song, and the whole record is their world music influences. This record has more Western influence and even some classical music, such as “Obvious Bicycle” has a piano riff running throughout the song. Second track “Unbelievers” is one of the more up-tempo songs, and it’s one of the few songs on the record that has a religious undertone to it, with lyrics about unbelievers, sinners, being born again, and things like that. It’s interesting, because it’s done quite subtly. This song is one of the more enjoyable songs, but the whole record is frankly wonderful. The first two songs, on the other hand, are what to expect from the whole thing – slower, more somber tracks with a classical influence, and high energy, bouncy indie-pop numbers. Third track “Step” is kind of a mix between the two sounds that this record has, but it also reminds me of a classic Vampire Weekend song that would fit nicely on any of their other records. It’s not one of my favorites, and in all honesty, this track kind of just fades away into the rest of the record. There are other tracks that do a lot more, and go other places, but this track doesn’t really do much throughout the four minutes it stays in your speakers. Following that is first single “Diane Young,” and this is easily one of my favorite tracks, if not my favorite. I love how energetic and fun this song is, but still remains intelligent and complex. This song is also quite short, not even three minutes, but it packs quite a punch, nonetheless. The only gripe I have with this track is that Koenig distorts his voice at a few points, and it just comes off really awkward and out of place.
So far, the first four songs of this record are wonderful, aside from the rather boring “Step,” which doesn’t really do much. The same can be said for fifth track “Don’t Lie,” even though it does feature some interesting keys and a classical sound as well. It doesn’t really go anywhere, or do much of anything, and that’s my problem with some songs on this CD. While it’s great as a whole, and the songs in question do have some interesting things, like “Don’t Lie” does have a nice buildup towards the end, but that’s it. The preceding few minutes are rather boring, to say the least. Not that it’s awful, but it just flatlines. A few other songs do this as well, but it’s not terribly problematic. Sixth track “Hannah Hunt” is a track that is rather slow, but it’s really interesting at the same time. It’s mainly piano-driven, but it works to its advantage. And it does actually go somewhere towards the last minute or so, because the tempo gets a bit faster, with Koenig distorting his voice slightly again. Not that I have a huge problem with that, but he does that quite a bit on this record when I like his voice the way it is. Next track “Everlasting Arms” is another bouncy track with a really catchy guitar riff that rides the song, and it’s a bit of a cutesy song, but enjoyable, nonetheless. This is a song that could easily be just as much of a hit as “Diane Young.” Sadly, though, following that is a track that I don’t care for too much, and while this record is great as a whole, eighth track “Finger Back.” This song, and tenth track “Ya Hey” are the two tracks on this record that kind of annoy me. There’s too much going on in these songs as opposed to nothing at all. “Finger Back” also has some spoken word in it, and it’s not that bad, but the vocal melodies here are so strange, and are just rather annoying. The same goes for tenth track “Ya Hey.” There’s some rather annoying instrumentation that comes off as insanely obnoxious to me. The rest of the record is enjoyable, and it ends nicely with the two minute track “Young Lion.” It ends quietly, but that’s a nice way to end it.
It’s been around three years since Vampire Weekend released a new record, so it’s been a long time coming, and do they deliver? Yes, they do. They definitely deliver, despite a few setbacks. The record as a whole is absolutely fantastic, and worth plenty of listens.