Vampire Weekend’s sophomore album a success

Story by Thom Fountain

Posted at 7:30 p.m. 1/29/10

Vampire Weekend’s debut self-titled album is a bit of a dancer. Ezra Koenig and Co. took their afro-beat influences and tweaked them into a pure pop masterpiece.

Contra, Vampire Weekend’s sophomore attempt off XL Recordings, picks up where their first album left off. The Brooklyn four-piece shows a logical maturation but keeps songs light and airy, the way pop music should be.

“Horchata” breaks Contra open with Vampire Weekend’s newfound electronic side. A subtle drum machine keeps time behind tribal drums and wide vocals invoking the worldly feel captured in their first album.

Contra plays as a less cohesive album than the debut, but tends to stand out more. Tracks like “Cousins” and “Giving Up the Gun” are blazing examples of the bands quick paced almost punk attacks. Conversely, “Taxi Cab” and “I Think Ur a Contra” slow the pace of the album and give it more depth.

Despite featuring some of Vampire Weekend’s best tracks, the album is certainly not a masterpiece. The fourth track, “California English,” showcases an annoying tendency to overproduce, in this case Koenig’s vocals with auto-tune (and I swear, I have nothing against auto-tune when used properly).

The final track on the album might be my favorite Vampire Weekend has done. “I Think Ur a Contra” relies on the airy, electric organs caked in reverb which sounds like a recipe for disaster. Koenig sings above it beautifully though, phrasing each line perfectly to keep the song interesting and moving. The lyrics are cryptic but the confusion works well to evoke the emotions of the closer.

Overall, Vampire Weekend had a lot to live up to after their phenomenal debut, and I think they pulled it out. Contra stays true to Vampire’s sound but shows that this band is here to stay.