The Red Eye Flight

First Listen: Vampire Weekend’s “Contra”

Posted in first listen, vampire weekend by huckd on January 6, 2010

Vampire Weekend’s second album hits stores January 12, but here are my initial thoughts on the album after a few listens.

When Ezra Koenig sings the line “Here comes the feeling you thought you’d forgotten” on the opening track “Horchata,” we are once again reminded that Vampire Weekend haven’t lost their knack at borrowing from the past and writing a bouncy pop melody.

Like their 2008 self-titled debut, Vampire Weekend sticks to its afro-pop cleanliness by clinging to finely orchestrated string arrangements, tribal drum beats, and accessible vocals that instantly leave the listener hitting repeat.  This time around, VW knows what they are capable of and seem to have fun crafting their Graceland anthems with confidence. A sped-up rocker dashed with Auto-Tune like “California English” shows their willingness to branch out and experiment, but it is their tried and true that shines. “Cousins” is the first single off the album and is an unmistakable “A-Punk” rocker that’s probably going to get killed with airplay overplay.

“Diplomat’s Son,” opens with a simple care-free electronic beat, a background vocal sample from M.I.A. and a string ensemble, making way for an undeniably cool entrance for Koenig to rhyme. It slowly builds to a hook that dances brightly around a piano and drum backbeat. The song feels so relaxed and works well because nothing feels forced, out of place or over-produced.

It is without question that part of Vampire Weekend’s appeal is Koenig’s lyrical prowess–he rhymes the unthinkable and delivers with such confidence.

Despite the lack of consistent flow, after three listens (the album only clocks in at 37 minutes), I really like what I’ve heard so far: clean, smart pop-music.

The album can be streamed in full on NPR here.

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