Take a bite out of Vampire Weekend’s latest

By BRETT BACON

Happy 2010 everybody! I’m back to review a new decade in music (for the next four months anyway) and things already look good for the future with Vampire Weekend’s new album “Contra.”

I was actually surprised that this album was released; I thought Vampire Weekend would be a one–hit wonder. I was, and still am, a big fan of their debut self–titled album. The reason I thought it would be a one–hit wonder, though, was because it was so original and ambitious that it seemed they could never really do anything like it again, or at least do it without being unoriginal or just bad. Luckily, I was wrong.

Overall, “Contra” is a more mature sound for Vampire Weekend. Not only is the audio quality greatly improved, but their overall musicality is improved.

For instance, the album’s opening track, “Horchata,” signals that the band has not lost its Afro-Caribbean inspired style, but that it has expanded its horizons from its first album. Instantly, it easy to recognize that the band has in a way let its foot off the gas for a good part of this album. That is, the music on this album does not emphasize fast tempos and high energy but is more devoted to creating more complex and musical melodies.

With that said, Vampire Weekend does not lose what made them Vampire Weekend in the first place. “Holiday” is a quirky return to the old Vampire Weekend we loved on their debut album. The fun and poppy afro–beats accompany quirky lyrics to make an undeniably danceable tune.

These “old” and “new” styles for Vampire Weekend, though, will not divide fans. Calling them different styles, actually, is probably a mistake. Rather, it is more accurate to say that there is a Vampire Weekend spectrum where their two albums are on opposite ends, but the spectrum is pretty short, and not a straight line.

Vampire Weekend Cover Art
Vampire Weekend Cover Art

The track “Cousins,” however, destroys my whole Vampire Weekend spectrum theorem altogether, so I’ll have to get my scientists working on a new theory. “Cousins” contradicts all of this because of its blatant surfer rock influence. While the band has always had a touch of surfer rock, they seem to go a little overboard (hah, get it?) with this song. The song is still great, but I’m not sure it really works for them.

Every other song Vampire Weekend has created has had a touch of chill into it; hence its popularity in certain “bro” clans, but this one is edgy and in your face. With fast and frantic guitar riffs, “Cousins” explodes out of the gate and soon starts to run you down with an overenthusiastic Ezra Koenig suggesting that “me and my cousins/ and you and your cousins” should come over and party. It’s straightforward, fun and again, a great song on its own, but I’m not sure if it fits the album.Overall, “Contra” is a great new entry from a band that could have been the best one–hit wonders of the “oughties.”

It is tough to say whether it is better or worse than their last album. A band like Vampire Weekend, though, does not require for you to choose a favorite album (unlike Radiohead), but it seems like they just want squeeze out some fun tunes in between classes and do whatever college kids do.