Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Album Review: Contra by Vampire Weekend

Today marks the official release of Vampire Weekend's long awaited 2nd album, Contra. Okay, so it has not been that long since their self titled debut. For current Vampire Weekend fans, and all indie fans for that matter, Contra couldn't have come out fast enough. The video for the fist single off Contra, "Cousins" hit YouTube in November 2009. Even M.E. Television has it regular rotation now.  

Plus when it comes to indie, so many bands that come out of the gate with a lot of buzz don't sustain or stay hot. It is not the fault of the bands themselves, with the exception of a break up, but rather of the type of fans indie tends to draw. I'll just say it. Hipster fans only like what's hot now in their circles and once that goes main stream, they abandon you. Just ask Kings of Leon. Once hot bands should only be so lucky.

In regards to Contra, it will certainly please the ears and hearts of current Vampire Weekend fans. In all honesty, everything that is right is wrong with Contra. The good news is that it sounds like another Vampire Weekend album. The bad news is that is sounds just like another Vampire Weekend album. There isn't a sudden change of style or any experimentation outside their normal realm with the exception of a couple of songs. It is just a good indie album that proves Vampire Weekend are no fad. They may even be setting themselves up to be poster boys of the indie genre.

There are some stand out singles on Contra such as their first single, "Cousins", a song most fans already know by now. A quick little ditty just barely over two minutes in length, "Cousins" is fun and catchy little indie ride. Fast drumming and guitar strumming make for an interesting support sound for the Mexican surf-rock inspired sounds that make up the rest of the track. Did I mention this is such a catchy song?

Contra's opening track, "Horchata" is not the ode to my favorite Mexican beverage that I hoped it was, but it is my favorite track off the album. I love the kalimba thumb piano, as it very typical of the sounds of Veracruz, Mexico. This kind of hip world vibe reminds me of something Paul Simon would have done. The vocal echos and reverb are what make it their own versus being a direct Paul Simon clone.

Something else that stood out to me about Contra is that on "I Think UR a Contra", they used an acoustic guitar. This is actually the only song that really distinguishes Contra from their self titled debut in my mind. The orchestral string sounds create a sort of calm that allows Ezra Koenig (guitar/vocals) to finish mellowing you out. The acoustic guitar comes in during the last minute of the song, accompanied by the soft rattle of some maracas.

While these three for mentioned songs stand out, the entire album is worth purchasing for current Vampire Weekend fans. If you have already heard Vampire Weekend and couldn't get into them, Contra isn't going to win you over. If you are new or unfamiliar with Vampire Weekend, give Contra an honest listen. It may even be worth it for you to go back and pick up their self titled debut if like Contra.

Official video for "Cousins" off the new Vampire Weekend album, Contra:

Vampire Weekend will be in Austin on April 10th at Stubb's. To purchase tickets, visit Front Gate Tickets here. For more on Vampire Weekend, visit them on MySpace here.

(This review was written for and published on Double Stereo)

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