Modern Vampires of the City
May 14, 2013 Web Exclusive
It wouldn't be surprising to find that Vampire Weekend had worn out their welcome five years after the release of their self-titled debut. After all, they look like the antagonists from a John Hughes movie with their precise outfits and coiffed hair. Intelligent, good-looking, apparently well-adjusted: it just doesn't seem fair that these four smiling gentlemen would be able to hang around in the public consciousness and maintain relevance while making such warm and catchy pop music. And yet, from the very first notes, Modern Vampires of the City is their best album to date, one that should not only maintain their level of popularity but elevate it.
Modern Vampires of the City opens with "Obvious Bicycle," a beautiful, bracing song that finds lead singer Ezra Koenig's voice in fine shape. It's a slow burn, and as a first track puts on display one of the most impressive aspects of Modern Vampires: there's no sense that Vampire Weekend is too eager to please. This is the record of a band trying to make music that they enjoy, and assuming that others will enjoy it, too.
So why not throw some harpsichord and a "You Can't Always Get What You Want"-style chorus against a hip-hop beat on "Step," or include a funereal march referencing Henry Hudson? Somehow Vampire Weekend convinces all of their influences—from African pop to hip-hop to classical to electronic—to not only coexist peacefully but seem natural alongside one another. Because they reach so far and wide, nothing seems beyond their grasp. The songwriting is tighter, the musicianship better, and the flow from song to song effortless. Koenig's voice gives Vampire Weekend a consistent personality, and Rostam Batmanglij is the multi-tool who can seemingly do anything, but it's Chris Tomson's drumming that forms the backbone, pacing such songs as "Finger Back" and "Don't Lie" with complex but clear rhythms.
They're not reinventing the wheel; any of the songs on Modern Vampires of the City would be easy to pick out of a lineup, but it is a step forward. Somehow, though, the album still comes as a surprise, perhaps because Vampire Weekend appeared to arrive fully formed, and to see them grow is to understand that behind all the ease and good times is tremendously hard work. It just doesn't sound that way. (www.vampireweekend.com)
Author rating: 9/10
Average reader rating: 9/10
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