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Vampire Weekend - Contra Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.5
Musicianship 8.25
Lyrics 8.5
Production 9
Creativity 8
Lasting Value 8.75
Reviewer Tilt 9
Final Verdict: 86%
Member Ratings
Vocals 7.46
Musicianship 7.54
Lyrics 6.88
Production 7.58
Creativity 7.5
Lasting Value 7.21
Reviewer Tilt 7.54
Average: 74%
Inside AP.net

Vampire Weekend - Contra

Reviewed by: Keagan Ilvonen (01/12/10)
Vampire Weekend - Contra
Record Label: XL Recordings
Release Date: January 12th, 2010

Say what you will about Vampire Weekend, but they have become one of the frontier bands of "mainstream indie." They do it without sacrificing any of their merit, too. While some rappers can go and spout off about lifestyles they haven't lived and get praised for it, Vampire Weekend does the same thing and they get bashed for being Ivy League boys whose fame was bought. They write about what they know, and that's all that matters to me, and obviously to them. Their debut album Vampire Weekend made a big splash in the media with the backing of sites like Pitchfork and media networks like MTV. The album contained many different influences that ranged from Paul Simon to African and world music. While their S/T album contained a lot of stand out tracks like "A-Punk" and "Oxford Comma," the album failed to have a flow; it just seemed to jump around from song to song. Not to be mistaken, the band's sound was significantly defined, just not perfected, but as of today and the release of their second album Contra, they have reached that point.

After two years since the release of the last album, the guys have been able to do extensive touring and various other things such as electronic side projects (Discovery). But, if anything, you can see how far the band has progressed from the music they initially released way back when. Contra is the final product of a band that has been learning as they wade their way through this ever changing music industry and it's a reassuring thing at that. The album starts off with "Horchata" the first song that was released back last year for free on their website. The song demonstrates a more melodic style from the band, and showcases Ezra Koenig's improved vocal range and control. But while the new is there, the same signature drumming of the last album is still there. "White Sky," and "California English," are perfect examples of how side projects can slowly become a piece of another band. Rostam Batmanglij's excursion Discovery shows its electronic side in multiple places throughout Contra. In most scenarios, this would be bad, but here, it just adds another dimension and layer to Vampire Weekends melodic joyride. In the latter, Koenig's vocals even have auto tune, which everyone in music usually would frown upon, but here, it seems necessary and appropriate. "Holiday" will stand out as a fast paced warm weather jam when the time comes around. Wait until this spring when the sun starts to come out, and this song will be played in everyones car as the rays of light reflect off their tinted shades.

Contra really picks up with the second half of the album with the soothing number, "Taxi Cab," which exemplifies how well Koenig's voice has matured in its lower range. With samples, piano keys dabbled throughout, and the backing of a full string section, "Taxi Cab" really stands out as one of the more calm and mildly relaxing tacks. Following "Taxi Cab" is "Run," one of the stronger tracks on the album. Picked up by some fancy drum work by Christopher Tomson and tied together with one tight bass line, played by Chris Biao, the band plays off each other in an amazing fashion. As Tomson and Biao do their part building a stage, Koenig and Batmanglij both shine as they play off each other throughout the whole track. For every note Koenig hits, Batmanglij has some kind of response with his synthesizer, whether it be a sampled orchestra or just some plain old low-end synth notes. The two compete for the limelight but only for the betterment of the song. Next is "Cousins," the first single off the album. While this doesn't have the instant gratification hook of "A-Punk," this is by far the fastest and most marketable track from a mainstream point of view, on the album. Quick and in your face is what you get here, no synthesizers or string arrangements. Batmanglij picked up the guitar for some fast California surf style guitar work. "Giving Up the Gun" happens to be the best song on the whole album, displaying everything the band has done in the past and perfected in the present. Vampire Weekend's signature guitar work is layered throughout the whole song, with samples, strings, bells, and a sing-along chorus. This is one of the best songs, if not the best song the band has ever written. As a whole, "Giving Up the Gun" shows why this band stands alone about everyone else in the endless pit of musicians and bands.

The album wraps up with the one two punch of "Diplomat's Son," and "I Think Ur a Contra." "Diplomat's Son" uses an M.I.A. sample but takes all of the focus away from the fact that it's actually in the song. The bouncy piano line backed by the electronic bass line and Ezra's soothing vocal delivery makes the sample seem obsolete. Finishing out the album is the ballad, "I Think Ur a Contra" which is the slowest and softest Vampire Weekend song to this day. This is a bittersweet love song about a failed romance that features some of the best songwriting and song composition work that the band has ever done that ends on a quiet, but promising note.

There is no way a band like Vampire Weekend is going to win in the end. With the Vampire phase that is thriving through America, they will be bashed for adding to the craze. Hipsters will dismiss them for having too much mainstream appeal, the mainstream kids will say it's not catchy enough to be in their rotation. But for us that can appreciate true and honest music, they will thrive, because in the end, that's what matters, and Contra is just that-- true and honest music.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 24
08:30 PM on 01/12/10
#2
Argentine
When I die, rap dies; Destiny Bond.
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First!
very good descriptions of the music and good review.
10:00 PM on 01/12/10
#3
Matt Chylak
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hate the last paragraph. just sayin
11:22 PM on 01/12/10
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Keagan Ilvonen
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hate the last paragraph. just sayin
sorry?
10:42 AM on 01/13/10
#5
Matt Chylak
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everything else is great
10:44 AM on 01/13/10
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Keagan Ilvonen
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everything else is great
haha well thanks!
12:30 PM on 01/13/10
#7
Jeremy Aaron
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Matt Chylak wrote this, so don't take his words too personally. For the love of the flying spaghetti monster, keep submitting stuff like this. I'm begging you.
07:19 AM on 01/14/10
#8
fobmcrafi6
down with the fad
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IMHO their debut was much better, maybe it s because i do love the fast beat stuff rather than the MGMT impersonation here. Other than Cousins there s one other song that all right but I can't imagine picking the C D up. Sorry but this indie Blow up band has lost all it s air and is descending back down.
04:48 PM on 01/14/10
#9
Matt Chylak
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Matt Chylak wrote this, so don't take his words too personally. For the love of the flying spaghetti monster, keep submitting stuff like this. I'm begging you.

And you wrote this. Get off your high horse, prick.
07:40 PM on 01/14/10
Jeremy Aaron
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And you wrote this. Get off your high horse, prick.
I don't want to propagate a six-month-old argument, but I thought I expressed my point very clearly and provided support for it. Perhaps it takes someone on a high horse to expect some logic behind people's behavior, or at least to comment on it when it doesn't exist. What I didn't do is praise a record whose creation reflects contempt for the record buying public. I imagine its makers in a room chortling about how making this joke record would make them piles of cash because the populace is too stupid to know any better. And they ended up being right. Now they're laughing all the way to the bank.
07:54 PM on 01/14/10
Matt Chylak
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I don't want to propagate a six-month-old argument, but I thought I expressed my point very clearly and provided support for it. Perhaps it takes someone on a high horse to expect some logic behind people's behavior, or at least to comment on it when it doesn't exist. What I didn't do is praise a record whose creation reflects contempt for the record buying public. I imagine its makers in a room chortling about how making this joke record would make them piles of cash because the populace is too stupid to know any better. And they ended up being right. Now they're laughing all the way to the bank.
Be realistic. It's radio-friendly pop music, and the radio's current format elevates nursery rhyme melodies and bad sexual metaphors to twice-an-hour play status for three months at a time. Ke$ha's record does that better than most of her contemporaries, so she deserves the praise. You might disagree with a review I wrote up on a whim, but don't let your ridiculous dismissal of "contempt for the record-buying public" get in the way of the truth: pop music is a digital single world, regardless of the number of times AP puts Brand New, Vampire Weekend, Paramore, or fun. on the home page.
08:18 PM on 01/14/10
Jeremy Aaron
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If Ke$ha deserves praise, I'd be curious to know what doesn't. And I stand by the contempt part. The record label execs and the artists themselves aren't stupid. They know what they're doing isn't legitimate. They're seizing an opportunity to hop on a trend. To say that "here's something that we can't really stand behind, don't have our hearts in, and probably will be ashamed to say we made years down the road, but we're putting it out here cause we know you'll buy it," that shows contempt.
02:20 PM on 01/15/10
keeplioving
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Be realistic. It's radio-friendly pop music, and the radio's current format elevates nursery rhyme melodies and bad sexual metaphors to twice-an-hour play status for three months at a time. Ke$ha's record does that better than most of her contemporaries, so she deserves the praise. You might disagree with a review I wrote up on a whim, but don't let your ridiculous dismissal of "contempt for the record-buying public" get in the way of the truth: pop music is a digital single world, regardless of the number of times AP puts Brand New, Vampire Weekend, Paramore, or fun. on the home page.
just because she was able to cash in on this current trend in no way makes her deserving of any praise...
07:59 PM on 01/18/10
Matt Chylak
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just because she was able to cash in on this current trend in no way makes her deserving of any praise...

I praised her because she did a better job at making radio-friendly pop music (or, as your prefer to call it, cashing in on the current trend) than most wannabe pop divas. It's a challenge to write something so catchy that people will forget they're singing the stupidest words ever put together into a sentence.

And Jeremy, what doesn't deserve praise are the thousands of MySpacers trying to cash in on the trends and failing. I'm not elevating Ke$ha to the same pedestal that some of my favorite bands, who write "honest" music, but I'm giving credit where credit is due.

Furthermore, I think there's plenty of bands on this site that get praise by cashing in on the "indie" trends or the "scene" trends (the Summer Set comes to mind quickly).
10:04 PM on 01/18/10
Keagan Ilvonen
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Matt Chylak wrote this, so don't take his words too personally. For the love of the flying spaghetti monster, keep submitting stuff like this. I'm begging you.

Will do Jeremy

IMHO their debut was much better, maybe it s because i do love the fast beat stuff rather than the MGMT impersonation here. Other than Cousins there s one other song that all right but I can't imagine picking the C D up. Sorry but this indie Blow up band has lost all it s air and is descending back down.

I will respectively have to disagree with you.
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