Modern Vampires of the City
Performer: Vampire Weekend
Engineer: Rostam Batmanglij; Nick Rowe; Dave Schiffman; Michael Harris; Ariel Rechtshaid...
Producer: Rostam Batmanglij; Ariel Rechtshaid...
Notes: Lyricist: Ezra Koenig. Personnel: Ezra Koenig (vocals); Rostam Batmanglij (guitars, banjo, piano, keyboards, shaker, drum programming, background vocals); Chris Tomson (drums). Audio Mixers: Justin Gerrish; Rostam Batmanglij; Ariel Rechtshaid. Recording information: Downtown Studios, New York, NY; Echo Park Back House, Los Angeles, CA; RB's Apt; Slow Death Studios, Burbank; Vox Studios, Los Angeles, CA. Photographer: Neal Boenzi. At the time of its release, Modern Vampires of the City was touted as a "deeper" offering from Vampire Weekend. While that's true to an extent, that also downplays the equally heartfelt and clever songs on their first two albums. What is undeniable is that Modern Vampires is a lot less obviously showy than the band's previous work. They trade in Contra's bright eclecticism for a less audacious production style and smaller instrumental palette: guitar, organ, harpsichord, and the occasional sample combine into a rarefied sound that suggests a more insular version of their debut, and the band bookends the album with some of its most literal and insular chamber pop on "Obvious Bicycle" and "Young Lion." Modern Vampires' quieter approach also showcases what might be most enduring about Vampire Weekend's music -- endearing melodies and carefully crafted lyrics. It also fits Ezra Koenig's preoccupations on this set of songs, chief among them the fact that we're all going to die. The band sums up all of this brilliantly on "Step," where the music's hip-hop beats and harpsichords reflect the allusions to Souls of Mischief and growing pains in Koenig's lyrics. Elsewhere, Vampire Weekend tones down the quirks that may have polarized listeners before; songs like "Everlasting Arms" and "Unbelievers" walk the fine line between cheery and grating so well that they could even win over those who previously found them too peppy and preppy. Similarly, Modern Vampires of the City's political allusions are also subtler than they were on Contra, where the band brandished them like college students all too willing to display their awareness of current events: Koenig sounds offhanded when he sings "though we live on the US dollar/We got our own sense of time" on "Hannah Hunt," and even the album's most overtly political song, the darkly verbose "Hudson," adopts a more historical stance as it incorporates everything from 17th century explorers, pre-war apartments, and exclusive New York neighborhoods into its meditations on fate versus free will. Of course, Vampire Weekend can't completely stifle their exuberance, and the album's louder moments stand out even more vibrantly against the subdued ones. "Diane Young"'s brash, buzzy mix of doo wop, surf, and punk feels like a nod to Contra as well as Billy Joel's "You May Be Right," and Koenig sings "I don't wanna live like this, but I don't wanna die" with so much joy on "Finger Back" that it celebrates life as much as it contemplates mortality. Ultimately, Modern Vampires of the City is more thoughtful than it is dark, balancing its more serious moments with a lighter touch and more confidence than they've shown before. Even if Koenig and company fear getting old, maturity suits them well. ~ Heather Phares
Rolling Stone (p.67) - 4.5 stars out of 5 -- "Vampire Weekend have gotten better and just about everything they do. The grooves -- always the thing that made the band's twee side work -- are more self-assured." Entertainment Weekly (p.71) - "VW's elegant under-the-chandelier pop numbers and jaunty upper-crust punk rave-ups still provide subtext-free sonic pleasures....Bright and sweet with plenty to chew on." -- Grade: A- CMJ - "In a jarringly beautiful manner, Vampire Weekend has grown....MODERN VAMPIRES OF THE CITY stands to become the group's PAUL'S BOUTIQUE, raising the bar from being a fun but safe band to breaking ground ahead of their peers." Billboard (p.41) - "The new set is the group's most accomplished work to date....Just fine-tuned, expertly crafted music." Q (Magazine) (p.91) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A] clever record. It's also, however, one that glows with tangible human warmth, heartbeat never failing to keep pace with its brainwaves." Mojo (Publisher) (p.84) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[With] the fragrant baroque-pop of 'Step' and the maniacal ivory hammering of 'Unbelievers.'"
With a novel world-music-tinged indie-rock sound drawing from reggae, classical, new wave and worldbeat, New York City's Vampire Weekend wowed audiences, bloggers, and critics long before even signing to the XL label and releasing their debut in 2008. Formed at Columbia University, the eclectic rock quartet tie together their diverse influences with a keen pop sensibility; it is a combination that has drawn comparisons with Paul Simon and the Talking Heads, and earned heavy praise from head Head David Byrne himself. While the image of trust-funders pairing African beats with songs about upper-class affectations and fripperies on songs like "Oxford Comma" sparked a minor indie-world controversy, the hubbub merely fueled the buzz for the outfit's rave-reviewed self-titled debut.
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