Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires Of The City Review


rating: 4.5

The New York quartet are back with their third album Modern Vampires of the City, a well crafted and often beautiful record that looks set to cement their position as one of the worlds biggest bands. Vampire Weekend have come a long way since they burst onto the scene, singing songs of college to afro inspired tunes. It seems as though they took some of the criticism of their debut to heart and have worked hard to create a truly innovative and new sound that is hard not to fall for. With a title taken from the opening line of Junior Ried's One Blood, the group are still not shy to borrow from areas of popculture, but this album sees less referencing and is much more introverted than its older brothers. Gone are the lyrical nods to warmer climates and distance lands, this is a New York-centric piece, only briefly mentioning other parts of the States. This sentiment is reenforced by the smoggy photograph of Manhattan, taken in 1966 when polluted air killed an impressive 169 people. The white boarder and futura font link the artwork to it's siblings while documenting the progression throughout the three records. The opening track slowly lulls you into the journey, like waking on sleepy sunday morning. On first listen Obvious Cycle seems to be an odd choice to start the album, but it sets the tone; the uptempo jaunty foot-stompers of Diane Young and Finger Back are the exception rather than the rule. This collection takes more inspiration from slower pace of Contra's second single release; Giving up the Gum and closing track I Think Ur A Contra, than any of the energetic guitars and beats of their debut. If Contra was a quick dip in the shallows of the electro world, then Modern Vampires sees the band dive head first into the deep end without a lifejacket, using the electronic palette to create something new; a warm and atmosphereic electro album. Keyboard player Rostam Batmanglij and producer Ariel Rechtshaid took the reins of production, Batmanglij applying what he's learnt from electro-soul side project Discovery and Rechtshaid bringing his extensive prodcution credits for the likes of Usher, We Are Scientist and Snoop Dogg. As a result the first listen may feel odd due, in part, to the omission of the guitars that made their debut so successful, they are in there, but used sparingly and pushed far into the background. Instead the band use experimental recording techniques and unusual manipulations to their advantage. The child-like high pitched Yaaa's of the mid tempo Ya Hey and pitch shifted low chorus of Daine Young really stand out at first, but multiple play throughs prove them to be among the albums highlights. The finished product is a truly original and unique electronic sound, the twisting of the vocals, tweaked drums and the overall warmth of the record come together to create a soundscape that it is difficult to resist. Keonig's vocals have been pushed further into centre stage, due to the lack of guitars to provide a middle he's forced to carry each song with a confidence that has come with his new found range. Lyrically the album is more reflective, darker and at times anxious, quite a departure from previous outings, haunted by ticking clocks, the passing of youth and ultimately death. Unfortunately the lyrics of Modern Vampires rarely reach the same sweetness that can be found on Contra, due in part to their ambiguity. It does have it's moments though'; Unbelievers and Everlasting Arms and the climactic end to Hannah Hunt are among the highlights, but they are harder to find on this record. The album is not flawless, one or two more upbeat tracks would've been welcomed and one too many empty spoken word interludes don't add to the experience. On the occasions that Koenig's lyrics fall a little short, songs must rely on the artistry and beauty of the music. With this said the weaknesses are by far overshadowed but what it achieves. A third instalment shows that Vampire Weekend have grown into an accomplished band that look set stay a world favourite with a triumphant album that rewards multiple play throughs. If Contra was the heat of a bright summers day, then Modern Vampires of the City is the warmth of a campfire on a summer evening.