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Album Review: Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City

Nouse's Callum Reilly reviews Vampire Weekend's hotly anticipated new LP.

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modvampThere is something excessively normal about Vampire Weekend. Perhaps that is partly down to one journalist who dismissed the New York four-piece as the 'whitest band in the world'. Coupled with accusations of cultural theft, a la Paul Simon, it is unsurprising that the previous album Contra carefully sidestepped their original Africanised sound. With this, we are left wondering whether Vampire Weekend might have played it safe on their third release, Modern Vampires of the City.

The most striking feature about the new album is surely its production, under Ariel Rechtshaid (having previously worked with We Are Scientists and Plain White T's). Far from an all out sonic onslaught, the result is a remarkably organic quality. Hear the warbling keyboards on 'Everlasting Arms' for instance, which drift subtly in and out of tune. There is no doubt that Rostam Batmanglij's keys now take centre-stage; guitars are all but absent, implying a dwindling satisfaction with being an ordinary indie band. Meanwhile, scatterings of pitch-shifted vocals ('Ya Hey'), orchestral backing ('Hudson') and some synth effects ('Diane Young') thrown in for good measure all show the group's outlandish side more conspicuously.

Similarly, the subject matter is more powerfully stated on Modern Vampires than on the band's previous two albums. 'Hudson', the disillusioned tale of a returning veteran, may represent their darkest material to date. Each song is more personal, like the understated 'Hannah Hunt', which parallels frontman Ezra Koenig's L.A. induced homesickness for his treasured East Coast. Performed as openly as this, no track alone can be dismissed as playing it safe. However, Modern Vampires is somewhat let down by its sluggish pace. It is only by the fourth track, the rock 'n' roll pastiche 'Diane Young', that the album awakens from its downbeat slumber - fairly uncharacteristic for the band that brought us 'A-Punk'.

Yet, the fact that upbeat tracks like 'Diane Young' or 'Ya Hey' still take pride of place shows Vampire Weekend have retained their brand of perfectly crafted indie pop. While they have still matured musically, they have also grown less self-conscious of their origins. Modern Vampires, a humble montage of Americana, is 'the last of a trilogy' in Koenig's words. If nothing else, that certainly builds a lofty degree of anticipation for the beginnings of a new one.

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1 Comment

Elder Statesman Posted on Thursday 26 Nov 2020

'downbeat slumber' until Diane Young?

This reviewer has surely not even bothered to listen to Unbelievers and album standout Step then?


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