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.
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.
on 7 April 2014
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.
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.
on 13 May 2013
Vampire Weekend are simply unlike any other band at the moment: they're instantly recognisable, effortlessly cool and they make wonderfully inventive music. Thank goodness this album lives up to expectations.
I instantly fell in love with their first self-titled album, but follow-up Contra took a few listens to endear itself and Modern Vampires is the same. I wasn't at all sure about the technical jiggery-pokery of the vocals on lead single Diane Young but I absolutely love the song now and I think the rest of the album will follow the same pattern. I already like it more and more with each listen.
A big sigh of relief then!
Vampire Weekend's third album 'Modern Vampires of the City' is their best to date.
This indie band has always been a favourite of mine, but I held off buying until I heard the radio friendly 'Unbelievers' and the catchy 'Diane Young'. Those two tracks led to me almost immediately purchasing the album, and I was not disappointed.
Whilst definitely sounding different from their past releases, you can't mistake the sound of Vampire Weekend, and the quality of the music has stayed the same. Most of the songs are now less 'poppy' and more mature. The same good rhythms, vocals and interesting, complex lyrics are still here in spades. My hand-down favourite track is the beautifully composed 'Step' (quickly sneaking into my top 25 most played songs) which deserves to be the next single. There is a good variety of songs on this album, whilst there are still some 'poppy' and 'upbeat' tracks here (to keep in with that signature style which made them popular), there are others, slow songs which are perfect for just chilling out to.
Also, the album photography was extremely well done and the best I've seen in a while. I know it's far from essential when reviewing a CD, but I loved the packaging, the script-like lyric book and the Manhattan setting photographs were a nice touch.
If you like Vampire Weekend, I highly doubt that you'll be disappointed by 'Modern Vampires of the City'. If you don't already own their past couple of albums and are parcel to indie/rock/alternative music, I think this is the best to start off with. Here is a quality experimental record that has something for every listener to enjoy.
on 19 May 2013
Modern Vampires is the band’s third record, following Contra in 2010 and their self-titled freshman release in 2008, and it is undoubtedly the most mature of the three. While the first record was an indie pop introduction to the affluent world of preppy New York, and the second a more experimental comment on growing up, the third appears to focus on a genuine and thought-provoking exploration into faith and love and the connection between the two.
The song titles suggest religious themes, with tracks called ‘Unbelievers’ and ‘Worship You’, along with ‘Everlasting Arms’ and ‘Ya Hey’ (sounding suspiciously like Yahweh), and the lyrics only compound this interpretation. There are constant mentions of Babylon and Zion throughout the album, and the mournful ‘Ya Hey’ appears to document Ezra’s existential crisis, questioning man’s relationship with God and His role in the world stating ‘Oh, the motherland don't love you/ The fatherland don't love you/ So why love anything?’ Equally, ‘Unbelievers’ appears to demand a validation of faith, lamenting ‘I know I love you/ and you love the sea/ but what Holy water contains/ a little drop, little drop for me?’ This verse seems almost prayer-like in that Ezra is pleading for some recognition that he is correct from God in the way countless believers have done before him, and the imploring appears to stem from a fear that his faith is as unfounded as the views of an unbeliever.
‘Hannah Hunt’, arguably the strongest track on the album, combines this religious fervour with a comment on love. ‘A man of faith said hidden eyes could see what I was thinking/ I just smiled and told him that was only true of Hannah’ jokingly compares the terrifying omniscience of God with the fear Hannah Hunt instils and her perceived power over him. Ezra arguably uses Hannah Hunt as a model for upper class American girls, employing the name Hunt to reference the oil billionaire H.L. Hunt, and suggesting that while they share a special connection, ‘There's no future, there's no answer’ to the issues in their relationship. This is a sharp change from the optimism seen in the first two albums, and appears to be indicative of the pain present throughout the album. ‘Step’ talks of a love affair either with music continuing this sadness stating ‘We saw the stars when they hid from the world/ You cursed the sun when it stepped to your girl’. In saying this, the protagonist appears to talk of his relationship with unknown music, and ensuing frustration when it became popular. While the narrator endeavours to protect his love, he finally admits that ‘The truth is she doesn't need me to protect her’ presenting an exhaustion new to the band and a strong sign of their growth.
That said there are some fantastically upbeat moments on the record, which return to the upbeat indie-pop that brought Vampire Weekend to fame. ‘Diane Young’, arguably a play on ‘Dying Young’, jokes about the likelihood of reaching maturity given the chaos of juvenile life. This is particularly evident in the lines ‘Out of control but you're playing a role/ Do you think you can go ‘til the 18th hole’ and ‘Irish and proud, baby, naturally/ But you got the luck of a Kennedy’, satirising the terrible luck of the Kennedys in dying before their time. Even here however there is an unprecedented maturity with the song ending ‘Live my life in self-defence/ You know I love the past, ’cause I hate suspense...’ suggesting a weariness and satire that despite the dangers of the future, it is to be relished and this fact should not be forgotten.
As a totality Modern Vampires is certainly greater than the sum of its parts. A wonderful album, Vampires presents a new side to the group that finally crushes the classic criticism that they are nothing more than a one-dimensional bunch of preppy Ivy-Leaguers. The emotion and religious exploration in the record show the developing wisdom of the group and the wonderful progression in music making they have undergone since the heady days of A-Punk. Thank you Vampire Weekend, this has made my May.
on 21 May 2013
Really enjoyable to hear pop with class, shades of early House martins, Big Star, Blurs Park life - but like all good new music it is none of the above, it is wha it is. Thoughtful, catchy, foot tapping in places you will feel the need to get up and move.
Really made the most of the vinyl opportunity, with a lovely pressing (ok we should take that as read) but a fold out poster with lyrics on the reverse making and the album art really pops at full size, the whole package is a thing of beauty.
The cherry on the top = they have bundled a CD - just in a clear plastic slip case, so you can rip to your smart phone or use on the many CD devices that are in cars and elsewhere in your life.
Great album, great vinyl and packaging - Excellent
on 14 July 2013
After reading a lot of very encouraging reviews comparing this very favourably with VW's previous efforts - I couldn't wait for Modern Vampires in the City to arrive. From the quirkily brilliant innocence of their debut to the more varied, intricate and personal Contra - which avenues would this seek to turn down? I am afraid to say that in my opinion that would be easy street. One reason I loved VW so much when I first heard them was the purity from stealing from other bands under the guize of 'referencing' or somehow praodying them Muse-style. Modern Vampires in the City is their least original so far. It has its moments as you would expect - Ya Hey is perhaps the standout track in preserving the brilliant ingenuity of the first albums being both fun, clever and having hidden depths - but by and large I have found this fairly underwhelming as a full album.
That is not to say that this is a bad album. There are plenty of positive reviews to leaf through that seem to hover between optimistic and blind idolotary. But if you like me were hoping for even more original ways of youthful nostalgia, for the discerning listener or the indie dance hall, I think you might be a little disappointed.
on 13 May 2013
Very rare is it when bands manage to live up to the expectations made from their first album but this is now the second time vampire weekend have managed this. The music market is saturated with similar-sounding bands which makes vampire weekend such a breath of fresh air! Awesome album.