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4.3 out of 5 stars61
4.3 out of 5 stars
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Some reviews of "Contra" have come with the qualification that Vampire Weekend's second album is not the fun packed neo African rhythm monster of their infectious debut. The new album is indeed a much denser and fuller work its less "Upper West Side Soweto" and "preppy college" rock and takes its cue from a broader musical palette. Nonetheless the departure is not overtly radical in a Noah and the Whale "First Days of Spring" sense and on balance "Contra" remains tremendously upbeat.

The thing about Vampire Weekends debut was that it came out of leftfield like the proverbial bolt from the blue; it was intelligent and inventive stuff and seemed to be an active partner to that other uber smart record of that time MGMTs "Oracular Spectacular". Erza Koenig's lyrics were witty and songs like "A Punk" could soundtrack romantic comedies.

While the essential features of the Vampire Weekend sound are here this album is noticeably different to signal progression. But is it better or worse for this?

Overall the sheer hedonism of their debut is missing which may not be a negative. You can have too much of a good thing and the band must develop. Not that the first track "Horchata" suggests a radical new departure. Indeed this could have happily sat on the debut while "White Sky" sounds like it could be included on a remix album entitled "Graceland with Synths". At a pinch so could have "Cousins" but which nevertheless shows how the band is maturing. It's the most frenzied guitar driven song on an album which relies more heavily on percussion and synths. Clocking up 2.25 minutes it's a great choice for a single.

Firmly in the "different" category are three songs. Firstly the albums clear highlight is "Taxi Cab". This is a slow beautiful bubbling pop song with some classical overtones and a lovely vocal by Koenig. If this is the new direction for Vampire Weekend I would vote for it! Similarly the sister song to "Taxi cab" is the title track "I think you are contra" a song of such dreamy pop that Beach House could have recorded it. It has a lovely melancholy quality and is about as far from "Walcott" or "Mansell Roof" as its possible to get. Finally many reviews have already named checked the Clash's Sandinista when it comes to "Diplomat Son" which is a 6 minute plus bouncy ska epic that the band just about pull off.

The same cannot be said for other songs such as "California English" which is a bit Vampire Weekend by formula and the very lightweight "Holiday" which is just a bit silly. "Contra" has a few low points and is therefore not quite five stars. That said it is by any standards a very successful sophomore effort on which many other new bands have struggled and failed. Vampire Weekend by this criteria may have a longevity and durability to become one of the major bands of the next decade. Enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2011
Blending poignant, self-aware lyrics with a wonderful backdrop of lush melodies, poppy beats and synth beats, Vampire Weekend's `Contra' is one of the most impressive and enjoyable records of recent years. Opening with the bright, bouncing beat and Beach Boys-esque backing vocals of `Horchata', a paeon to Spain's sweet drink, the album begins as it means to go on. It's an album split between the extrovert and the introvert, and the latter are combined in a dizzying wander through the exciting, imposing streets of New York, in `White Sky', where the experience "all comes at once", in a song permeated by the whoops and calls of the backing vocals. There's barely a mis-step on the album, and the following tracks `Holiday', a vibrant, day-glo evocation of the wait for a "summer's day", and the catchy, globalisation-focused `California English' lead the album well, into it's middle section. After these four tracks, the album seems to go a little more low-key, and somewhat more downbeat; with the beautiful tale of failed love that is `Taxi Cab', and the album's weakest track (though still worth a listen); the jerky escape-fantasy of `Run'. The album also experiments a little more towards the close; with the almost ping-pong beats of `Diplomat's Son', and the softer closer `I Think Ur A Contra', which fades to give Ezra Koenig a chance to showcase his vocals, which are almost as impressive as the music itself. `Contra' is indeed, one of the freshest and most listenable albums around; and has a bit of everything, from Carribean-sounding beats, to laments of love, and jerky-off beat, pop-punkish beats (seen best in `Cousins').

Whilst the album has come in for some criticism; some of it more valid than others, I feel that as a record I love strongly, it needs defending in some aspects. Firstly, the idea espoused by a number of older listeners that it's too much a rehash of Paul Simon's `Graceland' is a harsh criticism. As a big Paul Simon fan myself, I had concerns over these criticisms before purchasing `Contra', but the issue is one which has been largely exaggerated. There's no doubting Simon is a strong influence on the band's sound, but nowhere are the major themes of politics from `Graceland' rehashed here, the African beats of `Graceland' are largely notable by their absence in `Contra', and the two albums may have been compared lyrically; but there's no more than a passing similarity to love songs like `Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes', in the romance of `Diplomat's Son'. Secondly, the lyrics of `Contra' have come in for some criticism. Whilst Ezra Koenig is admittedly a little precocious at times, the lyrics are generally more erudite than those who criticise them as `pretentious' and such like, would have you believe. On the whole, I found this a hugely enjoyable and fresh-sounding listen, and one more expansive, and which held up to repeat plays better than Vampire Weekend's more limited, but still enjoyable first album.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2010
It was at a similarly chilly time of year back in 2008 that Vampire Weekend released their eponymous debut album. Unseasonably warm, afro-infused pop had my toes tapping for the rest of the year and it remains an album to put a smile on the face. The naysayers accused the Ivy League graduates of being too clever with their lyrics about obscure punctuation and architectural features and even of cultural tourism with the African musical influences (let's be honest - if you removed the African musical influences from pop music you'd be left with...well, Chas 'n' Dave. And they've just split up). Personally, I grew up listening to Paul Simon's Graceland so I have no problem bouncing about the room to that kind of thing and I have been looking forward to the release of their sophomore effort.

Opening track Horchata will be grist to the mill of the doubters with its subject (a Mexican rice drink) and rhyming - balaclava and aranciata to name but two. For the converted, along with tracks like White Sky, Holiday and the guitar driven Cousins, it is a track that could have come from their previous album, providing more of the same if that's what you're after. Where they depart there are some huge hits and perhaps the odd miss. Some of the tracks that had me worried on my first listen have already become amongst my favourites. One still remains at the risk of being skipped each time though. One day some kind of judicial process will bring Auto-tune to trial for crimes against music but until that time we will have to endure more experiments with it like California English. It is followed however by the beautiful Taxi Cab in which frontman Koenig employs those beautiful, effortless, Paul Simon tones, backed by strings and later harpsichord. How's that for Ivy League!

The electronic experimentation is far more successful on Run, a tale of escape that bursts with energy and light. It is an example of a track where the Afro influences are absorbed rather dominant, a good indication of where Vampire Weekend will continue to triumph. Giving Up The Gun is a good example of a track that has really grown on me, sounding first like something from an 80's brat-pack-flick-soundtrack but revealing something lovely with each new listen. The only drawback at the moment is that if M79 had a whiff of Ski-Sunday about it, then the repeated refrain of 'Go on, go on, go on' on this track might just remind you of Mrs Doyle from Father Ted. Sorry, I shouldn't have said that because it certainly will now (if you know what I'm talking about that is). Diplomat's Son is the longest track on a short album, almost two in one, its reggae like rhythm breaking down in places so that piano and strings can plonk and twirl away. There is something haunting and disorienting about closer I Think Ur A Contra which I'm loving. It's often the quieter moments that herald something exciting on this album, although I can't stop jumping around to Cousins either.

In spite of those accusations from those against you can't help but admire the ways in which Vampire Weekend are clever and make the most of those influences, combining them with genuine creativity to make something entirely their own. It's early days but this already the first must-have album of the year. What better way to beat the cold-snap than put this on, mix up some horchata, and enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2010
And so at the start of the new decade we are greeted by a band who have great potential, Vampire Weekend. Unfortunately they haven't gotten any closer to really achieving it on this their second album. It's not a complete second album disaster though.

The sound has developed a bit though. There is less of an unrestrained feeling of joy and more focus on the rhythm sections within the tracks such as on `Run' and `Giving Up the Gun'. This gives the tracks more of an urgency and determination which in its way is refreshing when balanced with Ezra Koenig's vocals. Additionally tracks like the opener `Horchata' and `Cousins' provide really nice energetic moments of excessively enjoyable pop. `White Sky' also adds a very welcome slice of Graceland influenced wonder filled with synths and clapping rhythm sections.

The weakest tracks on the album in my opinion are `California English', `Taxi Cab' and `Holiday', though the later still has charm to its excessive hyperactivity. The first is an example of the band trying to be too clever for themselves and sacrificing any tune. `Taxi Cab' is simply forgettable in my opinion with no clear hook.

They have probably saved themselves by only making a ten track album. Any more than that and I suspect there would have been too much filler that would have taken away from the moments of really good quality music. It is a good offering and worth a listen but be prepared that it will not have the sheer unrestrained joy or consistent quality of their debut.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2010
Make no doubt, this is a good album. The one main change from VWfirst album is that its definately not as quick paced or up-beat, but thats definately not a bad thing. Contra is a refreshing change from VW's slightly tedious first album.

Each song feels fresh and different from the rest and the laid back style of this album definately shows that VW have matured a little bit, and have started to rely more on deep, emotive music rather than poppy and light tunes. I dont think this album is as radio friendly as the first album, with "Cousins" proberbly being the only song with any chance of hitting the mainstream radio.

But thats why i like this album, because it doesnt try too hard to bee something its not, instead VW have followed there hearts with this one, creating some really good music with a slightly different and refreshing approach. If you liked the pace and finesse of "the kids dont stand a chance" then you'll like this album but dont expect an album filled with high tempo songs like "A-punk" or "Boston". VW have taken a new approach to this album and its well worth a listen.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2010
i was introduced to this band by my nephew. First cd was very good, this is better. The band's affection for tightly wound guitar riffs and brisk african rythyms is shown up very well, and their comparison to some of Paul Simon's classics does no harm at all. The lyrics are also esoteric and leave you hanging in the air wanting more. The music, is light airy and clever.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2013
This album has the same great jolly feel from the debut. Although it took a few listens to get into it(hence the four stars) it is now level with their self-named album.
There is a song that makes me think of every part of the year!
Spring: 'Giving up the Gun' -Upbeat and and layered
Summer: 'Holiday' -self explanatory!
Autumn: 'Diplomats Son' -chilled, it has a nice reggae feel
Winter: 'Horchata' I know it's not hot chocolate but that's what this song makes me like, it is cosy and comforting.

All the songs have so many aspects to them that all fit together. This album is inkeeping with the style of their first album and yet has another somewhat more matured layer.
I also love the fact it comes with a card sleeve over the CD case, it make it feel more luxurious.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2010
This is the perfect follow up album, it links well with the first but bursts into life spanning various genres making this one magical and musically inspiring album. Listen to it, now imagine singing and dancing to that at the summer festivals in the sunshine and mud, PERFECT.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2010
All in all, I think that Contra is a really good album. Songs like Cousins and Holiday get me dancing whenever I hear them. However, I'm not too sure about it being better than Vampire Weekend. Firstly, Vampire Weekend is, in my opinion, one of the best albums ever, and every track on the album could probably get a top 10 hart placing. On Contra however, although the good songs are brilliant and probably better than the good songs on Vampire Weekend, such as A-Punk and Oxford Comma. I think, though, that this, the sustained brilliance on Vampire weekend makes it altogether the best of the two Vampire Weekend albums.
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VINE VOICEon 25 February 2010
Contra is the follow up album to the highly successful self-titled debut album. Released in the UK on the 11th January 2010, the hype of the media has combined with the reputation Vampire Weekend give themselves a lot to answer for.

The album has 10 songs on it as followed:
This is a very suitable opening song. It has the typical melodic soft sound with the gentle, but rich voice of lead singer Ezra Kroenig bouncing over the top. The riff of the song is played with xylophones with a quiet drumbeat in the background which makes which is very nice to listen to, and is quite relaxed and chilled to listen to.

White Sky:
Starting of with the more synth beats with a heavy beat starts very well and is more electro than the previous song, but still maintains the gentle singing before the chorus develops into some interesting high pitched humming, which is impressive and gives a funky twist for this funky pop tune. I like listening to the song, but feel the album needs to move forwards into a faster, choppier style more commonplace on the first album.
To my delight, Holiday starts of with a quick drum beat followed with a good bass line and more pop synths. The lyrics 'If I go on a Holidaaaay' make this song a song that I imagine will be very popular over summer; a very good festival song. This is so far my favourite and is the most addictive sing along song of the 3 so far.

California English:
This is immediately different to other songs. It sounds most like any song of the previous album, however a distortion is encorporated to the singing of the songs. At first I didn't know what to make of it, but I quite like it; at least its original!
Taxi Cab:
Starts of slow, with simple lyrics related to the song title. The song later develops with a cute piano solo played for about 30 seconds before the singing continues, before later joining again.

I find this song quite boring as it is quite unnoriginal and doesn't really progress at all. The lyrics are quite average, and the music is nothing special except for a memorable riff being played over the drums.
This is the first released single off the album released a week previously. It is very fast beat accompanied by some furious drumming and a impressively thought out riff which compliments the song fantastically. 'Me and my cousins, you and your cousins' repeats numerous times throughout the song - pretty catchy lyrics. Finally ends with some bells adding to the music before an abrupt end makes this song my favourite on the album. Instantly catchy, I could listen to this on repeat a lot!

Giving up the gun:
This song starts of a lot heavier to anything I have heard from vampire weekend; a loud drum beat and heavy bass line however, the lyrics are similar to previous songs. I don't quite know what to make of this, and not sure whether I like it or not. Unfortunately, that is all I have to say on this one...
Diplomat's Son:
This is the longest song on the album at around 6 minutes. Funky beats are the basis of this song which play alongside a bouncy bass line as well as piano sounding chords. The song is quite repetitive but thats expected for 6 minutes of song. Similar to the first couple of songs as is very relaxed.

I think UR a contra:
The last song on the album starts off like something from a disney love scene is probably the best way to describe it. It carries on for some time like this, not really progressing anywhere. Singing style is similar to the other songs, however is a lot slower and more classical. In my opinion, I find this quite dull and boring, not something I would listen to on its own. A bit dissapointed.
The album itself is very similar overall to the first debut album, so is worth listening to if you liked that. However, the musical style of Vampire Weekend has really progressed but matured more than anything. I was hoping for some more songs that scream single at you, and will get everyone singing along to them, however, I can't see anything but Cousins living up to this.
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