MAY: Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend

So I thought I was done with Vampire Weekend. I bought and enjoyed the first two albums, but as with many albums I’ve bought in the last decade, they didn’t feel like they sustained my interest and eventually I stopped listening. I was ready to file ‘Oxford Comma’ and ‘A Punk’ under tunes from a certain era, and then move on. And when I first heard new single ‘Diane Young’, it confirmed my waning allegiance. It sounded irritatingly hyperactive, like a throwback to their first album. One trick ponies that got found out, I thought to myself.

And then the reviews started coming in. Huge leap forward, they said. New maturity, they said. Surprisingly introspective, they said. And I listened to the minute long previews on iTunes, and within 5 minutes I’d bought it.

The reviews are right. This is an album that states that Vampire Weekend are not just preppy boys playing Graceland-style pop. It starts off with with the downbeat Obvious Bicycle (still need to work on those titles now and again, boys), with its repeated imploring to ‘listen’, as if the band are insisting we reconsider them. And then we go on really quite an odd journey, that feels both like a crisis of identity set to pop music (Ya Hey, surely one of the album’s highlights, appears to be a bleak exploration of  faith and Jewishness), mixed with beautiful tunes (Step’s brilliant Bach steal, the gorgeous Hannah Hunt – probably my favourite song – and the album’s small, melancholic closer, Young Lion) and in amongst them, some reliable bops from the old school Vampire Weekend – such as Unbelievers and the single, Diane Young. The latter suddenly makes so much more sense in the context of the album as a necessary shot of fizzy sugar in amongst all that wistful existential angst.

And its funny that the band started off with Paul’s Simon’s Graceland as a template, because it’s Simon’s songwriting that most comes to mind – both his late work with Garfunkel and his early (brilliant) solo albums. That’s quite a comparison, but I think the songwriting on this album is that good.

So yes, a great leap forward and a sign that these boys are hear to stay. I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am.

5 comments

  1. nolankane706

    Brother David; I think my pre-thoughts of this album were on very much the same line as yours. They had filled a time and place but I wasn’t sure they were going to get past that.

    As anyone that has seen them live will tell you they are a very tight and entertaining band live; and I would always jump at an opportunity to see them live. I had developed an opinion after hearing the lead single that I should most likely be happy with the fact that they released two great albums and they may have peaked.

    I had to remind myself that their second album showed signs of progression in their song writing that with some luck would have continued to develope. Upon my first listen this was confirmed and excelled any hopes I may have had for this album. They have moved a massive step forward whilst not too far that some fans may get turned off the new music.

    Vampire weekend make great, catchy songs that grow and grow on you with each listen and they have continued with this album. I find that this differs from their first two albums in the fact that the over all pace has come down a couple notches but not in a bad way. I agree that it remids me of Graceland, and perhaps pre-Graceland Paul Simon as well.

    This is a complete album that has a great song order and keeps you attached all the way through. I thank you brother David for this; Vampire Weekend will yet again be filling the soundtrack to my summer.

  2. misterstory

    So. I like this. I like VW. I like Contra very much. Unlike brother David, Contra has stayed on constant play for me. Diplomat’s Son is my favourite VW song by a long way. I love it. I also saw them on the Contra tour (as did Brother Nolan) and they were awesome. one of the tightest bands I’ve ever seen play live I was very impressed. Seeing them live underlines their ‘all killer no filler’ characteristics. Their albums are full. This album is the same.

    Yep the Gracelands-like African rythmns have gone but the Paul Simon influence is still massive. Almost to the point that it sounds like he’s doing an impression. And yes Brother David – it’s Bridge over troubled water Paul Simon that I am thinking (sorry, I don’t even count Garfunkel as being in that duo). Diane Young feels like Cecilia when it starts but then falls into ‘Faith’ by George Michael (sorry if I’ve ruined that for anyone).

    So I like this but I don’t love it yet. However, I’ve not lived with it enough and have been working my arse off recently so have not had enough time with it really.

    Nice choice. I quite like doing new albums.

  3. whyohwhyohwhy

    Interestingly, while I’ve been aware of them, they’ve never been a band I’ve been into. Preppy, Graceland style pastiche, while unfair, was something that always came back to me.

    I know I’m late to this, being away in Oz and Glasto’s kind of put me into catch up for a month, but I’m intrigued to give this a listen, given it’s a progression.

    So, leave it with me, reactions to follow, it’s going onto the phone tonight. I need something to listen to that doesn’t make me pine for Glasto.

  4. whyohwhyohwhy

    Well I’m really enjoying this so far. I knew previous stuff and it never really clicked, and while there’s still some of the more african rhythms in there, it’s got real scope and reminds me a lot of stuff I love, like Grizzly Bear’s Shields (though I rate that the better album). It’s growing on me, from Obvious Bicycle’s serene opening, Step’s lazy wandering insistence, single Diane Young, and Everlasting Arms’ uplifting feel. I don’t think I’ll ever warm to them as much as similar bands I love, but it’s an album I’d never have bought and it’s been a pleasant surprise so far.

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