Upon listening to a few seconds of any Vampire Weekend song, it doesn’t take long to realize that the band’s name is clearly a misnomer. Any preconceived notions of emo dreariness are instead replaced with images of bright-coloured sombreros, long drives along the coast and hillside orchestral performances. Mellow, youthful and fun are just a few words that describe Vampire Weekend’s sophomore album, Contra, which was released last Tuesday.
Much to the delight of fans however, the entire album has been streaming online at www.vampireweekend.com for the past few weeks. The band’s website also offers a free download of the opening track “Horchata,” an island-inspired chant that melts away the mindset of the frigid winter months. “White Sky” merges Ezra Koenig’s infectious falsetto and Rostam Batmanglij’s signature keyboard melodies, a combination that is present throughout much of the album. Many songs are reminiscent of the band’s self-titled debut album, in particular the Victorian string section of “Taxi Cab,” which was inspired by Joe Strummer, the lead singer of The Clash.
While Contra draws heavily from Vampire Weekend’s first effort, it is also a much more developed compilation. Songs like “Run” showcase the bands newly perfected array of instrumental choruses, in which you will probably find yourself partaking in lots of head bopping and shoulder popping as you listen. Their new single, “Cousins,” opens with a set of erratic exclamations reminiscent of running through a thorny bush, and plunges directly into a frenzy of ska beats and run-on drum lines that upkeep the momentum for the entirety of the song’s mere two and a half minutes.
One of the most unexpected tracks is “Diplomat’s Son,” which samples M.I.A.’s “Hussel” and adds a subtle reggae vibe, creating one of the album’s most addictive songs. (Just as a side note, Vampire Weekend is probably one of the only band’s that could get away with making lyrics like ‘When all I wanna do is use, use you’ sound cute.) Since the group’s sound is so mellow, many of their songs tend to sound alike, often without any overly climactic moments. Yet they are one of the few bands that are able to use this repetitiveness to their advantage, and instead of fading into obscurity as the boring, same old act, Vampire Weekend use their lovable lyrics and happy-go-lucky tunes to make fans crave their music more and more.