Vampire Weekend – Contra (XL) 11/01/2010

January 14, 2010 by  

Considering the likes of Friendly Fires, Late of the Pier, Kalxons, Foals, MGMT, The Courteeners, Ok maybe not the last one, are all releasing second albums this year, competition for the tenner your nan gave you on Christmas day is going to be fierce. Vampire Weekend have chosen to lay their claim to your money a little earlier than most and release their second album ‘ Contra’ just as the public consciousness begins to recover from its Yuletide hangover and the pathetic four inches of snow that once again cripple Britain’s infrastructure.

Maybe it’s a little too early in the year to put your wintry Shoegaze and cuddly Nu-folk albums back on the shelf, but ‘Contra’ finds Vampire Weekend continuing their Paul Simon tropical party which was so successful back in 2007. Three years on and little has changed. Much of Contra could have been used on their self titled d?but, but this is not necessarily a bad thing and there are signs of Vampire Weekend experimenting with their sound.

Opener ‘Horchata’ builds upon the West African beats you’d expect to find, with the inclusion of more developed string sections and glockenspiels, showing signs of a more ambitious and matured effort from the band. Further developments of their sound include a trip to the synthesiser shop and even a stab at garage rock. Unfortunately, not all of these deviations from their core sound work that well. ‘California English’ is too complicated, with its shifting tempo and multiple layers the song lacks the direction and immediacy of old and Ezra’s blatant attempts at crafting the perfect pop harmony can grate on first listen, no more so than with the ear wrenchingly high vocal hook on ‘White Sky’.

‘Holiday’ and ‘Cousins’ are where Vampire Weekend manage to produce the perfect pop song, complete with simple catchy lyrics and harmonies ? which is what this band are all about really. Add to these the endearing ‘Taxi Cab’ and album closer ‘I Think Ur A Contra’, which find Ezra reaching new levels of maturity in his song-writing and increasing his vocal presence, the album begins to take shape.

‘Contra’ contains enough of the light-hearted Paul Simon pop of their d?but, with just enough of a sense of a band developing their own sound to keep fans happy. With only slight deviations from what made them so successful and the addition of a few political undertones, Vampire Weekend have managed to produce the album everyone wanted them too, but not quite the perfect pop record.

By Chris Cummins