Vampire Weekend Avoids Sophomore Slump

Posted: January 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Reviews, Articles About Music | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Everybody’s favorite east coast Jewish-American afro-pop quartet, Vampire Weekend, accomplishes a few things – perhaps more than they might have aspired – with Contra, their second full-length album.  After keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij worked out some music management kinks last summer with his collaborative pool-party-mix triumph (Discovery – LP), Vampire Weekend’s sound as a full ensemble hits the ears of longtime fans as something abnormally fresh and worthy of stationary break-dancing.  But Contra caters to the new listeners seeking a decent place to start too.  With tracks like “Cousins” and “Holiday,” novices to the witty foursome can witness VW ever-so-subtly hark back to the catchy lineup of overly repetitive riffs and beats that was their self-titled debut.  Fortunately for defenders of independent music, this band’s sound has shifted to the point of deserving a dignified double take.

Shamelessly depicting such nuisances as melodramatic Nietzsche-crazed youths in “Giving Up The Gun” and the paradoxes of modern college students psyche in “California English”, lead singer Ezra Koenig coolly sidesteps the hallowed sophomore slump curse as any forward-thinking songwriter would.  Koenig relishes in his past follies, makes them intimate and personal – only now can he mock and poke fun without losing self-worth.  The occasional voice cracks of “Run” and the boyish shrieks and swoons of “White Sky” add to the comforting idea that growing up is not the same as accepting boredom and dull ennui.

Rostam Batmanglij seems nonplussed with his band-mate’s new direction and certainly has plans of his own concerning track arrangement, instrument selection, and even unexpected cross-genre influences (“Diplomat’s Son” features an M.I.A. sample that cleverly fills the soundscape between Koenig’s verses).  Much like a musical Kurt Vonnegut, Batmanglij boldly unveils new aspects of his creative style without reinventing his art to the point of disassociation.  He defiantly recommences the old signature marimba base beats that earned the band much negative feedback from the critical “authorities” of the day; yet display VW’s deep respect for some of the world’s most sincere music – West African percussion.

Despite being dubbed the “whitest band” two years ago (by none other than the founder of Stuff White People Like, Christian Lander), Vampire Weekend lashes back after a brief hiatus of recharging and realignment with Contra, a track list more like the intersection of experience and fun than the straight-as-an-arrow highway that forms most sophomore efforts.  Who needs music industry guidelines anyway?

California English – Vampire W…

2 Comments on “Vampire Weekend Avoids Sophomore Slump”

  1. 1 'Wards said at 2:08 pm on January 14th, 2010:

    Man! What a superbly articulate expression of wisdom! Who is that guy’s English teacher?

  2. 2 Brady said at 11:38 am on January 15th, 2010:

    Great review sam