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4.5 out of 5 stars
Modern Vampires of the City
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
With hindsight we would do well to remember how many critics thought that Vampire Weekend's eponymous debut might be their first and last record. The "Upper West Side Soweto" template did seem to offer limited development opportunities and suspicions lingered that this was just a slice of novelty cultural tourism by (at best) a bunch of privileged preppy white boys and at worse four Ivy League bozo's. Their excellent sophomore album "Contra" started to suggest a band with much greater staying power who were moving into very interesting darker corners. Now their third album "Modern Vampires of the City" confirms a new album that is an undoubted keeper by a band who must now be ranked as best amongst their peer group. Repeated listens confirm an almost perfect pop album strong on infectious song-smithery, populated with hooks large enough to catch Tuna and lyrics so smart you can award an A+ diploma to each track. Yes MVOTC is essentially about New York but within its vinyl grooves are songs which tackle themes of faith, death and after-life albeit with a broad smille on their face. While at one time the band may have seen "the dawn in the colours of Bennetton" this superficiality has passed and the opener "Obvious bicycle" it is so beautifully melancholic that it could appear on a Mercury Rev album. The same applies to "The Unbelievers" which sounds like Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" rewritten for the 21st Century with a splash of world music thrown in for good measure. Ezra Koenig's skills are brilliantly honed on an album standout "Step" which is both a doo-wop track with harpsichord and shows that he has studied his Brian Wilson songbook well. It is a gorgeous song that cries out for the repeat button. The foot is further pressed down on the gas pedal for the buoyant single "Diane Young" surely destined to be the 'alternative' pop record of the summer? It is worth checking out the "making" of this song on the net which forms part of the excellent series of videos where the band enlist as their "Director" the actor Steve Buscemi to hit the streets to hustle New Yorkers into buying tickets to their Roseland Ballroom concert.

Darker hues are fleshed out on the rubbery pop of "Everlasting Arms" a lush pounding song with a infectious drum undercurrent, wobbling bass and on repeated listens a rather funky sheen. Then we have the ubiquitous "Ya Heh" which has just about colonised every music blog for the last month with its regretful lyric of "America don't love you", huge cartoon character backing to the infectious chorus plus an ending to die for. Lookout in addition for "Hanna Hunt" which shows how Koenig's songwriting craft is maturing at warp speed not least the wistful line "If I can't trust you then damn it Hannah, there's no future, there's no answer." The ultimate sign of a great pop band in this reviewers humble opinion is to construct a pop song at around two minutes and make it indelibly mark. The 1.45 seconds of the final track "Young Lion" achieves this with a gentle rolling piano and melody that sticks like superglue. Granted it is still early days with "Modern Vampires" and one of the longest tracks on the record "Hudson" has yet to really land a blow. This is countered by the sheer fun and outrageous audacity of "Finger love" which could happily grace an Animal Collective album and fit like a glove. The spoken interlude in the song is followed by Keonig recalling "Remembrances of holy days in Tarrytown and Rye/I don't wanna live like this, but I don't wanna die". Finally "Worship you" reminds you of the theme tune for the old TV series Bonanza, surely always a great sign?

While "Modern Vampires of the City" may not be the best album of 2013 (time will tell) it is by a country mile the most enjoyable listening experience of the year thus far. It is a life affirming album by a band entering their prime. The good news is that any doubt around the longevity of Vampire Weekend is dispelled by this record. This fact alone should be a cause of celebration. A while ago one Amazon reviewer had the audacity to describe Vampire Weekend as the new Talking Heads. They are two very different beasts but in the context of this new album we get a huge pot pourri of whimsical, esoteric lyrics combined with a mix of elements of punk rock, art rock, avant-garde, pop, funk, world music, and Americana. Does this sound familiar? Whatever the case "Modern Vampires" is a completely joyful album which you are going to want to own pronto.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This might take some justifying, but I feel Vampire Weekend’s third album Modern Vampires of the City should not only be regarded as the best album of the year but also as a grand artistic statement on malaise in modern America. From its very cover art – a 1966 photograph of the New York skyline in what remains the smoggiest day in the city’s history – Modern Vampires of the City caps off a near-perfect trio of indie pop albums with a subtle comment on the cloud of despair which currently hangs over post-recession USA.

Each album has seen Vampire Weekend slowly but surely evolve into a unique and experimental indie outfit eager to drag ‘the New York sound’ into a new musical frontier. In my opinion, Modern Vampires of the City is the ultimate genre-bending culmination of the songwriting partnership of Ezra Koenig and Rostam Batmanglij, seeing them continue to dabble in everything from harpsichord-utilising baroque pop on ‘Step’ to the classically-arranged masterstroke of the string arrangements on ‘Don’t Lie’.

The Afropop-inspired indie giddiness of Vampire Weekend and Contra is given due focus on the likes of ‘Finger Back’, ‘Worship You’ and ‘Ya Hey’ but the overall mood has been dialed down a tone to a dejected but ponderous sound. This can be jarring upon first listen – particularly in its most melancholic and experimental moments – but if you give Modern Vampires of the City the time it deserves it soon becomes clear it is their strongest effort to date.

Ostensibly, Koenig’s songs on Modern Vampires of the City are a mixture of nostalgic reflections on his youth and love songs, but his lyrics also appear to verge on social commentary exploring how 21st century America is still in thrall to fundamentalist Christian evangelism. ‘Girl, you and I would die unbelievers bound to the tracks of the train,’ Koenig sings on ‘Unbelievers,’ a surprisingly upbeat love song which many an agnostic would appreciate. ‘Oh good God, the faithless they don’t love you,’ he sings on ‘Ya Hey’, ‘the zealous hearts don’t love you, and that’s not gonna change.’

Koenig’s lyrics therefore take on an undoubtedly sincere but otherwordly feel, aided in no doubt by Batmanglij’s involvement as co-producer in lending musical expression to multicultural musical forms. By continuing to do so with such fortitude, this album sees Vampire Weekend make a significant leap both in maturity and in terms of advancing their musical and songwriting ability.

Even though Vampire Weekend remain rooted in the musical geography of New York City and address Koenig’s distinctly American life experiences, Modern Vampires of the City should provide ample evidence that they are indeed one of the most innovative and experimental American pop bands currently working. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2013
"Modern Vampires of the City" sees Vampire Weekend distancing themselves from the Afrobeats and artful preppiness that dominated their previous two albums; here, the Ezra Koenig led band shows us a more intimate side, while dealing with deeper, more trascendental issues: there'll be no mentions of "Vuitton" in this album, whereas God gets two songs (the wonderful "Ya Hey" and "Worship you") and the marvelous "Step" succeeds in letting us see the band's underlying idea: "Wisdom's a gift, but you'd trade it for youth", Koenig croons. Musically, this lyrical change finds its counterpart in the introduction of new instruments - a piano guides the sweet "Obvious Bicycle" - and a more minimalist approach production wise. Nevertheless, the album - considerably quieter than the two preceding LPs -still packs a couple of good punches: the drum-heavy "Finger back" and "Diane Young" - the latter being a energetic showstopper, whilst ever continuing to explore what appears to be the album's leitmotiv: the growing-up process (Diane Young/Dying young).

It might prove too cumbersome for some, but I think this third effort from VW will win the band some converts: it's still VW - keen on double entendres, haughty references and musical experimentation - but they seem to have stuck the landing: we find the band at the top of their game, effortlessly improving on what were already a couple of very high quality albums.

This, according to band, is the closing installment of a trilogy. I for one am excited to see what they have to offer next.

9/10
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on 14 October 2013
I don't really subscibe to the view that VW have 'matured' with this album. In fact I don't really understand that point of view at all. This album is darker than the previous two released by the band. Gone are the feel good African rhythms and melodies which is a shame because those ingredients were the reasons for providing the 'colour' in the bands sound. Combine that with the 'chirpy' and rather 'cheeky' vocal delivery and you have a good blend when adding the often complex 'electrical' keyboard arrangements.

Modern Vampires of the City doesn't really get going the same as the other two albums. After many plays it still has the VW charm and quirky vocal delivery but the feel good element has been replaced by darker elements - still good, but I prefer the fuller more balanced sound of their previous attempts.
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on 24 July 2013
Following the success of their previous work, I can say that Vampire Weekend have produced something that outshines the already gleaming albums. I am at a loss as to what they will move onto.
A brief hiatus in which I presume many people were desperate to learn of their direction, MVOTC provides us with a sound that is more mature, yes, but still pays its dues to the preppy image that originally captured audiences. Lyrically, I believe that this is the strongest album as of yet, and the LP is divine (mine came with a CD and poster with the lyrics printed on the back, always helpful- especially with the likes of Finger Back!).
My favourite track has to be Obvious Bicycle; I have dubbed it as both my mantra and anthem.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 2013
The opening track Obvious Bicycle has that familiar Vampire Weekend sound, that we all fell in love with. Overall Moderern Vampires Of The City has a slightly darker edge to it then the last two albums, but I'm glad to say that feel good factor of their music is still there in the main. There are no weak tracks here, but other stand out songs for myself are as follows: Unbelievers, Diane Young, Hannah Hunt, Everylasting Arms and Ya Hey.
This is a contender for the best album of the year so far and I hope it gets the success it deserves.
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on 15 May 2015
There seems to be a lot of deep analysis of the meaning of the songs in some of the other reviews which is worthy comment, however simple soul that I am I'd rather focus on the album for the music and ignore the meaning. For me, someone whose music buying peak was in the 80's this is a work of musical genius, I haven't listened to the previous albums so can't compare it with their other work but I happened upon this album purely by chance and from the first listen loved it. The mixture of very simple songs like Obvious Bicycle contrast brilliantly with the bang crash of Diane Young. The whole album is inventive and melodic with extremes of light and dark, you need this album
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on 24 June 2015
I have been a fan of this band since their debut back in 2008. This is by far my favourite album of the 3 they have released. I ordered this on vinyl, not only because it's my favourite but because I saw someone was selling it for incredibly cheap (£6 something with a small postage fee) so I went for it. Sleeve had 'slight wear' I thought, how bad could it possibly be?! So I bit the bullet and bought it and wow am I blown away, the vinyl was in perfect condition, as was the sleeve. - AMAZING for so cheap. For the album it's self, it is amazing. My favourites are Step, Diane Young and actually, all of the album. It is an incredible album and they are an incredible band.
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on 11 May 2014
I loved both previous albums (Vampire Weekend and Contra) with all tracks on both albums firmly in my top rated playlists. This album is not as consistent. I love Diane Young, Ya Hey, Finger Back, Worship You and Unbelievers. Diane Young is probably in my top 10 tracks ever.
However, Hudson is awful (1-star - firmly flagged for deletion if I run short of disk space.) and six other tracks I gave 2 stars, meaning I never want to hear them again.
I thought of gong back to listen to them again so I could write a more in depth review, but instead I have just put the five 5-star tracks on repeat. Life is too short to listen to music you hate.
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on 16 October 2013
Very different kind of album from what i usually like but the song structures and melodies draw you in and the darkness of the album seems to lead to a lot of postives by the end.
Its very hard to descibe this album because for me its a tight group of musicians but has a brilliant edgy electronica underbelly to most songs which is what makes its all so creative and fresh, were you expect a guitar solo or drum solo in comes the most strange effect or dance style groove. Its all very cool but has substance.
Anyone into the last Interpol or Arcade Fire albums will like this and also anyone searching for something different.
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