Vampire Weekend: Contra [XL, 2010]
8.8 out of 10.0
After Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut no one could really be sure what to expect from their sophomore effort. Their spastic combination of vocals and lyrics,traditional rock instrumentation with string arrangements, percussion galore, all mixed with various genres of programming, made it difficult to fathom what could possibly be next for the quartet. What Vampire Weekend brings with Contra are all of those things, but with maturity in the sound. They took all of the success from their debut and raised the level.
Rostam Batmangli really shows off his talents throughout the album with his efforts on the keys, percussion, and in the booth with his production work, especially on songs like “California English,” where frontman Ezra Koening’s vocals are run through Auto-Tune, which is favorable among hip-hop artists to distort vocals.
Once again Vampire Weekend manages to run the gambit on genres in their work from their very radio friendly power-pop tune “Giving Up the Gun,” to the more ska oriented “Run.” What this album does for the average listener is make Vampire Weekend more accessible, which is a good thing. The album from beginning to end is catchier, both vocally, lyrically, and musically, another sign of the band maturing as song writers. With Contra they really come into their own. Instead of channeling the sounds of Paul Simon, with the percussion especially on their self-titled, they’ve taken all the sounds and made them their own.
The lyrics of Koenig have matured right along with the band as well. He’s no longer singing just about college and the Northeast anymore, but is instead looking back on what has happened and what will come next. For example on “Taxi Cab,” he sings, “You’re not a victim/But neither am I/Nostalgic for garbage/desperate for time.” That’s where Koenig has changed in his lyrics, instead of telling what’s happening, he’s now analyzed what’s happened and what it all means if anything.
All in all Vampire Weekend’s Contra is an album you won’t file away soon. It’s catchy and as you continue to listen you will find yourself drawn to different tracks each time and will wake up with another one in your head for days to come. It’s certain to be one of the best albums you pick up all year.
– Taxi Cab
– Giving Up the Gun