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Music Review: Vampire Weekend – Contra

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It was a mere two years ago that the New York City indie band, Vampire Weekend released their self-titled debut record. The Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson, and Chris Baio lineup remains the same today, when they are set to release their sophomore album, Contra on January 12, 2010. Contra starts right on the same path that Vampire Weekend left off. This release leaves the former Paul Simon and Beatles fans nothing short of satisfied.

This album is not as good as their first album. It is near impossible to top that album, which was full of songs that they worked on for years (many of which appeared on their EPs before their major label release). Now facing a major record label’s strict deadlines, they didn’t have an incessant amount of time to work on this. Bands are facing strict deadlines with the changing music industry. This music proved to fans that Vampire Weekend have a diverse sound to them. Fans were scared that this release would mimic their debut effort. In contradiction, their self-titled debut was a great lead into this release.

“Horchata” is an amazing album opener. It is the perfect transition from the indie rock rookies to the fame that they’ve grown to love. As a matter of fact, this could’ve been on the first album, though it hints the band has evolved into something else. That something else is what I call Contra” One thing I’ll mention is that the band is no longer solely glued to their instruments. There are hints of backing tracks and more studio effects that enhance their sound this time around.

Ezra Koenig successfully used the Auto-Tune effect that T-Pain has mainstreamed on “California English.” It complements the otherwise weak and soft song with a heavier and effective vocal punch. It’s not the type of mainstream rap/hip-hop auto-tune. If you’re cognitively tuned to turn off auto-tune produced songs, this is different. “Taxi Cab” could be a children’s song. This is the ballad and most beautiful song on the record. Throughout the rest of the electrifying record, Koenig uses exciting and up beat vocals. This song is a definite step back from their usual approach. “Taxi Cab” is a look into the different musical ventures that Vampire Weekend utilizes on their sophomore release.

“Cousins” is the debut single off of the record. When I first heard it, I was kind of puzzled. Their sound was completely changed. After listening to the whole album in context, it fits in perfectly. From the electronically driven “Run,” “Cousins” is a perfect fast paced transition into a softer indie concept on arena rock with “Giving Up The Gun.”

Thoughtful transitions and pace are the standouts of this album. Each song was put in a thoughtful order to make this album a pleasure to listen to. If you liked their first album, or modern indie with a classic Beatles sound, Contra better be on the top of your queue.

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