Music Review: Vampire Weekend’s ‘Modern Vampires of the City’

Vampire-Weekend-Modern-Vampires-Of-The-CitjyLove them or hate them, Vampire Weekend’s latest album Modern Vampires of the City is a must listen of 2013.

Since their debut album dropped in 2008, the preppy, eccentric, and off-kiltered quartet known as Vampire Weekend have been called a lot of things. Mostly, what they are mostly revolves in the camps of “love them” and “hate them.” Vampire Weekend’s music derives from the fierceness of New York punk music mixed with the band’s mutual love for World music, making their sound something to either praise or to write off as gimmicky. But now three albums in, Vampire Weekend continue to bring their own alternative version of alternative music to us the listener in the form of Modern Vampires of the City, their most refined and enjoyable album to date.

Off the bat, you can’t go far into talking about this album without mentioning the first two singles, “Diane Young” and “Step.” The former mostly resembles their earlier singles like “Cousins” and “A-Punk” with its speed alone, but mixing in Ezra’s vocals – both normal and pitch-shifted, with what I believe is a bass saxophone hanging in the background makes for a memorable and enjoyable first single. The latter of the two happens to be my favorite on the album. The minimalistic piano, Ezra’s whisper quiet vocal work and overall mellowness of this track helps give the group a much needed boost in the depth department. Same goes with the opener “Obvious Bicycle,” which flirts with some African drums throughout, but mainly uses them to accent the quiet approach the band is going for. “Hannah Hunt” also is a slow ballad of sorts that has these gorgeous piano parts placed throughout that brings a great deal of light into the song, especially towards the end.

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Don’t worry! If you are thinking that the band has gone soft with just a bunch of slower songs, then you’ll be happy to hear that they do return – but aren’t as prevalent as they used to be. “Unbelievers” plays around with a stompy back beat and fierce guitar strumming, but doesn’t reach a point of fulfillment until its large climax towards the end. “Ya Hey,” clocking in just above the five minute mark, is a lyrical downer; filled with some pitch shifted lyrics noises and Ezra’s uncanny ability to just make up a language and call it a day. It took me a while to enjoy the song, but after a couple of listens, it did grow – though the length of the songs is quite hindering to it.

There are some songs on Modern Vampires that didn’t pull me in any direction really. “Don’t Lie” had a cool gospel sound to it towards the beginning, but never really grabbed me like “Diane Young” did previously, especially since “Diane Young” cuts out at the end and immediately jumps into the song. “Finger Back” would sound better on their debut album, as it seemed too raw for such a lush album. Though the songs don’t necessarily stand out on their own, they do make nice buffers before you hear something like “Worship You” – and the rest of the album in general.

Modern Vampires of the City isn’t the most diverse album in the world, but I don’t believe it’s trying to be. Unlike previous releases of theirs, whom were arguably trying to be different too much, Modern Vampires succeeds in all aspects Vampire Weekend, with a bit more sheen and lots of refinements. When the band can get loud and bang on the drums all day, Vampire Weekend toned it down, cleaned it up, and delivered a remarkable third album. If anything, this shows how a band’s sound can change into something even more interesting and gorgeous five years later.

Final Grade: A-

Go Download: “Step,” “Hannah Hunt,” “Diane Young”

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