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Vampire Weekend – Contra
22 February 2010, 08:00 Written by Tyler Boehm
Contra, the new Vampire Weekend album is cause for a celebration and, luckily for us, the band has provided the soundtrack. On the heels of their near perfect, self-titled debut, not only has Vampire Weekend avoided a sophomore slump but they've put together an album that embodies the best of indie music. Vampire Weekend are a slightly conceptual, wholly idiosyncratic band and Contra, while it expands on the debut sonically, could not be mistaken for the work of any other band on earth. That's something that could be said of very few indie acts today, and the indie community, for all its ostensive fetishizing of individuality, remains puzzlingly divided on the band. Anyone unable to enjoy Vampire Weekend for perceived ideological reasons is missing out: Contra, while maybe not hitting as many dizzying high points as the first album, is the sound of a tighter, more confident and increasingly stylistically omnivorous band. Even better, it's packed full of gorgeous songs.While still bearing the band's signature sound of clean, African guitar lines, Rhythm of the Saints style percussion and Ezra Koenig's slightly fey vocals, Contra is considerably deepened and made more interesting by Rostam Batmanglij's arrangements. On songs like 'Run' Batmanglij's synthesizer (so prominently featured in his side project, Discovery) warmly cushions the band's angular sound. On 'California English,' Ezra Koenig's yips are fed, T-Pain style, through auto-tune to great and unusual effect: the melody jumps wildly and the auto-tune accentuate those leaps at their high points with little sonic pirouettes. These stylistic touches (the dub of 'Diplomat's Son,' the punk guitars on 'Contra') make Contra a more diverse album than the debut but the results are the same: all ten songs are light, bright, clean and instantly memorable. One criticism of the band is that they are overly mannered, that they put on airs, but throughout the record they sound, comfortable, self-assured and free, as best embodied by the stand-out track 'White Sky' which starts out with a mellow rhythm, layers on Koenig's vocals, then drums and synths, until we reach the chorus, where Koenig lets loose a cascade of beautiful, infectious whoops.Meanwhile, the lyrics remain largely inscrutable and, if they're filled with references to things like Oranciata that could have made it on, they are less aggressively signifiers of New York society types. That's fine because the music really only conveys three emotions, joy, slight melancholy and sometimes both in combination. The seemingly simple tone and perfectly polished sound make Contra an easy listen, but the album is equally nuanced and well thought out. Like it (and you should) or not, Contra proves all over again that Vampire Weekend is one of the most original and enjoyable acts of recent years.RECOMMENDED

Buy the album from Contra | [itunes link="" title="Vampire Weekend - Contra" text="iTunes"]

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