Sunday, 10 January 2010

Vampire Weekend - Contra

Vampire Weekend
Contra
Label: XL Recordings
Release Date: Jan 11th 2010

Posh/preppy/aristocratic jibes aside, Vampire Weekend are an extremely gifted bunch. The band couple expert musicianship with their own blend of Indie/Reggae influenced Afro-Pop, resulting in a completely unique sound. Take recent single Cousins for example - within barely a bar of the song you can tell the frantically picked guitar work is a Vampire Weekend effort.  With album Contra, they're taking on the unenviable task of following up 2008's self-produced, self-titled, masterpiece of a debut.

So how does Contra compare? Well the most obvious difference is that they've taken a slightly safer path with this one. Whereas Vampire Weekend was more of a rollercoaster of moments of genius, coupled with the odd moment of insanity, Contra is a more flat-lined affair. Both highs and lows are still present on Contra - California English and the aforementioned Cousins are two of their strongest tracks to date, while the chorus to White Sky could have been written by ear-bleeder Mika himself - but all in all this is a more conservative effort.

If we forget about their debut and look at this record in absolute terms, all the individual components that contributed to it's success are still there in abundance. The percussion section, utilising instruments from violins to glockenspiel's to great effect on songs such as Horchata, still gives them the diversity that puts them above most Indie bands. Chris Tomson, the member behind the band's percussion, also demonstrates enormous worth behind the drums, Chris Baio and Rostam Batmanglij on bass and lead guitar respectively do a great job of driving the songs forward while still mixing things up with some fantastically fiddly riffs and fills, while vocalist/guitarist Ezra Koenig produces some great vocal lines and melodies (possibly going a little OTT on a couple of occasions...), while also contributing significantly with guitar in hand.

All in all, fans of their 2008 debut are highly unlikely to be disappointed by this offering, whereas for those who didn't enjoy it so much, and were possibly dettered its eccentric nature and occasional duller moments, the more conservative nature of Contra begs for a shot at redemption.  

7.5/10

Choice tracks: Cousins, California English
Recommended if you like: Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend, the continent of Africa 

Vampire Weekend - California English

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