Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
With their 2008 debut album, Vampire Weekend introduced us to a view of preppy, east coast college life. As a college student when the album was released, I enjoyed and loosely appreciated the surfacey comparisons I was able to draw between their music and my own life. “I see you/You’re walking ‘cross the campus,” I’d hum to myself on the way to Public Presentations, or “I don’t give a f*ck about an Oxford comma,” I’d think during English 113. The music was light and fun – just like college itself.
But with their new album, Modern Vampires of the City¸ the band really seems to have matured and made it their mission to push their songwriting as far as it will go. Resulting is one of the most inventive, dynamic and best albums I’ve heard in ages. Each song is its own little world and you never get the feeling of “heard one song, heard them all.” In the past, the band has incorporated everything from Afro pop-inspired beats to tight punk elements into their music. On this album, they go even further with hints of early hip hop and classical (“Step”), reggae (“Ya Hey”) and even a little rockabilly (“Diane Young”). On paper, it doesn’t sound like it should work. Yet they adapt these styles to their music in their own unique way, creating a wonderfully unique sound.
The lyrics also really hit home for me on quite a few of the coming-of-age songs. As a 2009 graduate, I initially found myself, along with countless other educated, 20-somethings, unemployed and unable to even get a minimum wage, no-degree-required job, which the band sings about on the opener, “Obvious Bicycle.” Frontman Ezra Koenig sings, “You ought to spare your face the razor, because no one’s going to spare the time for you/You ought to spare the world your labor, it’s been 20 years and no one’s told the truth.” Bookending the album nicely, Modern Vampires concludes with “Young Lion” on which Ezra repeats, “You take your time, young lion,” which seems to be a word of comfort directed to the unemployed kids in “Obvious Bicycle.”
Though nearly every song on the album is excellent and I never felt the need to prematurely skip to the next track, there were still some obvious standouts. “Hannah Hunt,” a simple, minimalist song that features just piano, a little bass and Ezra’s delicate vocals, finally explodes at the end where he nearly shouts, his voice growing frantic. The more fast-paced tracks, “Unbelievers,” “Worship You” and “Diane Young” are great pop songs and just a lot of fun to dance around to. These songs are immediately pleasing and also incredibly respectable when you break them down and realize how they were composed and just how complex they are.
Though I realize we’re only half way through 2013, I’m declaring Modern Vampires of the City to be the best album released all year.