Album review: Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

by Matt Juniper

Artist: Vampire Weekend
Release: Modern Vampires of the City (2013)
Label: XL
Rating: 4.5 / 5

vampire_weekend_modern_vampiresVampire Weekend have always been a paradox. They’re endlessly accessible yet incredibly polarizing. They’re upper class intellectuals with lyrical content that tends to border on the juvenile and sometimes even on the nonsensical. They’re a sheltered group of Columbia students making music that takes influence from the global south. And they’re a band seemingly tailor-made for hipster music snobs, yet they are just so incredibly uncool (and I mean this – I often find people listing their favourite bands will lower their voice to a whisper or accelerate their pace as they mention VW).

Perhaps most importantly, they’re a band that on the surface appear to be a one-trick pony in terms of sound yet they have now produced three incredibly engaging albums. While I immensely enjoyed their debut I felt that even that album offered so little variety over its 11-song track-list that I believed we would have long ago grown weary of Vampire Weekend. With ‘Contra,’ they managed to change everything and nothing at the same time and they proved me wrong.

And so here we are, with ‘Modern Vampires of the City’ presenting another incredibly stupid album title and twelve songs that draw heavily from the band’s signature sound while simultaneously sounding like an enormous departure from anything they have done before. It was billed as darker and the lyricism certainly is (it’s all impending death, ticking clocks and existentialism) but the music itself is as sunny as ever (minus Hudson).

‘Modern Vampires of the City’ offers a slightly more mature side of Vampire Weekend. Glossier production, songs big enough to fill a stadium and the most variety the band has produced on a single album to date. Hudson is dark and brooding, Diane Young swings like it’s the late 50’s, Finger Back pays tribute to their debut, Hannah Hunt breaks your heart and Unbelievers just plain rocks.

Watch the video below for Step which is lifted from “Modern Vampires of the City”. 

Two things deserve particular credit here. The first is Koenig’s vocals. Ezra has a naturally appealing voice but has always struggled to control it. I like imperfect vocalists but I always thought Ezra could benefit from some vocal training. It seems he got it as he is nearly pitch perfect here. He fucks around a lot (see Diane Young) and he still struggles with higher notes (…’and you love the sea-ee!’) but for the most part it is smooth and consistent. Second – the production is just sublime. So clear it glistens but it never, ever feels overdone.

This is without a doubt Vampire Weekend’s most consistent effort to date.

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