vampire weekend // modern vampires of the city

by jared silva

Since New York’s Vampire Weekend first debuted on the indie music scene with their self-titled release back in 2008, there has been an odd split between the people who loved them and the people who hated them. Most critics and those who loved them from their incarnation applauded their infectious world music-inspired rhythms, colorful melodies, and high-energy youthful spirit. Their style was educated and proper, gracefully slipping in intellectual puns and fashioning them into lyric-driven pop hits. It was a fresh take in the indie pop/rock scene at the time and one that’s been career defining for the group.The people who weren’t fans of them focused on how these kids, who grew up in high-class families and attended Columbia University, were privileged, preppy hipsters using Afro-pop and reggae to talk about oxford commas, 17th century architecture and horchatas. It’s been a stigma Vampire Weekend has been associated with since the beginning and has caused many select groups of listeners to perceive them as a pretentious shtick.

Their third LP to date, Modern Vampires of the City, is like an answer to that stigma, changing up their style while keeping the core elements of Vampire Weekend intact. It’s a testament to how solid and fresh the band can really be while altering musical traits we know them by and bringing in new ones out through their pop experimentation. There are a ton of instances of electronic meandering and vocal pitch shifting unheard of before from the band. Even many of the influences found in their previous two albums, including their most linked artist comparison Paul Simon, are left on the wayside for new song structures and styles they haven’t had a chance to try out yet.

The biggest change by far here is their confidence, which fuels the heavy lyrical content on Modern Vampires. This release is easily their most mature and seriously-toned album with religious / anti-religious / ambiguous religious messages and thought-provoking words to inspire and motivate the lost 20-somethings of this generation. Neither Vampire Weekend nor Contra has been as tight and theme oriented as Modern Vampires of the City, and the execution is perfectly pulled off.

Subtlety composed opener “Obvious Bicycle” specifically is filled with theme-driven mantras that sets up the entire listening experience with the lyrics “You oughta spare your face the razor / Because no one’s gonna spare the time for you” and “Listen up / Don’t wait” with the intention to drive those lost 20-somethings to be productive and do something important because no one’s going to do it for them. Think an actually sincere YOLO. Additionally, the energetic first single “Diane Young” (a play on “dying young”) acts as a youth revolution anthem a la The Who’s “My Generation” (“Nobody knows what the future hold / It’s bad enough just getting old”) and closer “Young Lion” features only a simple retro-sounding and a repetitive choral chant to “Take your time, Young Lion.” On the religious side, songs like the up-beat and harmony-driven “Unbelievers” comes off as a pro-atheism pop song, and the romantic “Ya Hey” (again, a play on Yahweh) features a narrative talking to God and his unsure nature causing many to doubt his decisions, a common collective thought from the youth of this generation.

Essentially, Modern Vampires of the City is Vampire Weekend’s grown-up record. They’re not the same post-collegiate, spunky rich kids from their early twenties anymore. The band has done an important thing for their career and moved forward with their sound instead of repeating what’s made them so well-known in the first place. Their sound is much more refined here, though it’s not to say that Modern Vampires sounds like a different band, but that it makes their previous efforts seem from a less experienced band. Not many rock acts have the guts to pull what Vampire Weekend has done here, and it helps in making this their best record yet, haters be damned.


recommended tracks // “step,” “obvious bicycle,” “hannah hunt”

Original post from FAMELESS.