Review: Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Vampire-Weekend-Modern-Vampires-of-the-4.21.2013.jph_Here’s a track by track review of Vampire Weekend’s newest release, entitled Modern Vampires of the City:

Obvious Bicycle

A quiet track to start off the album. The backbone of this track is the vocal acrobatics that piano player Rostam sings around the chorus sung by lead singer Ezra Koenig. When the track breaks into the bridge the song builds in momentum before quietly sliding back into the chorus followed by a nice little piano piece by Rostam. At a recent show at Roseland Ball Rostam said that this was one of his favourite Vampire Weekend songs ever. There is no question that it is a beautiful song, but as the opener to the album it feels a little anti-climactic and misplaced. I feel it might have been better suited for a later slot in the album as a breather between some catchier and more upbeat songs.

Unbelievers

This song quickly snatches the momentum that “Obvious Bicycle” builds towards. It immediately gets the blood pumping with a tempo that chugs along until the songs final notes. This is an anthem that will no doubt become a regular in the bands live shows especially considering the ease with which an audience could clap along to the last iteration of the chorus. Ezra sings, “I’m not excited. Why should I be?” but this is just the type of song that instantly gets listeners excited when played live.

Step

This song is one of the best slow jams the band has ever recorded akin to “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance” and “Diplomat’s Son”. Half the time I don’t know what he’s talking about as he name drops Buddhist Temples and Ancient Greek Kings but damn does it sound poetic. The other half of the time Ezra adds to the songs memorability with lines like, “Everyone’s dying, but girl you’re not old yet” that seem both wise and naïve in a way that only Vampire weekend can deliver so effectively.

Diane Young

Diane Young was released as the first single for the album and for good reason. This song is a jolt of energy that also manages to be experimental as Ezra cranks his voice to extreme highs and lows with some vocal manipulation. It is impressive that Vampire Weekend can replicate the success of their previous high energy singles like “A-Punk” and “Cousins” while also sounding completely new.

Don’t Lie

The most epic song on the album, it incorporates an incredibly wide array of instrumentation without sounding cluttered or overpowering. Ezra sounds more like the leader of an orchestra as he carefully commands the arc of the song to the climax. It is a comfortable and confident song that shows how much Vampire Weekend have grown since their debut.

Hannah Hunt

This song follows a relationship as it moves through different cities, a theme that Vampire Weekend has always been obsessed with (Boston, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, Taxi Cab). In the last section of the song Ezra shifted from tired to emotional as he sings in falsetto for the last chorus. It sound excellent and lifts the whole song to a higher level with it.

Everlasting Arms

This is a very classic sounding Vampire Weekend that would not have sounded out of place on “Contra”. The bass line by Chris Baio provides the base for the chorus and the rest of the song builds around this. It is a catchy song that rides the grove until the strings take over and set the song down gently.

Finger Back

Here Ezra takes on the vocal style that was his default on the self-titled album. It maintains this tone until the last third of the track where Ezra breaks into a spoken word peace centered around a Broadway relationship between an orthodox girl and a guy at a falafel shop. It is definitely the goofiest sounding song on an album which is, in general, much more mature than their previous two.

Worship You

This song is broken up into chunks by the speed of Ezra’s singing in a way similar to the technique used in “A-Punk”. The verses sound like they’re sung in fast forward and the chorus is sung in slow stretched out syllables. Then comes the synthesizer solo; the synth sounds broken and is the first utter fail of an experiment on the album. The song is somewhat recovered with a well executed tempo changeup but it is still my least favourite song on the album.

Ya Hey

“Ya Hey” picks up the maturity in both subject matter and sound. The sound is interesting and different incorporating a complex piano riff into the bridge that compliments Ezra excellently. In the chorus a somewhat chipmunky sound is used to back up Ezra to surprisingly beautiful effect. Ezra also does another spoken word piece similar to the one on “Finger Back”, this one is much more effective and provides a nice transition to the last chorus. The lyrics deal with themes of faith and at some points it appears that Ezra is talking directly to God. At one point he seems to speak empathetically with God saying, “Oh, good God. The faithless they don’t love you, zealous hearts don’t love you, and that’s not going to change.” I like to picture Vampire Weekend patting God on the back saying “it’s not you it’s me”.

Hudson

This song’s an interesting one; it is easily the most ominous song in their catalogue. This is a large detour in sound for a band known for catchy happy songs. A choir and violin are usually present in the background creating an eerie feeling that is aided by an organ and marching band snare drum. The lyrics deal with themes of murder, mortality, and patriotism that add to the already gloomy mood. These elements are brought together further when the anxious ticking of a clock accompany the line, “The clock is such a drag”. Vampire Weekend execute perfectly branching into a dark place reminiscent of bands like Liars. The success of this song show how talented Vampire Weekend are as song writers in their ability to take on a new sound and completely own it while still sounding distinctly like themselves.

Young Lion

The shortest song of the album at a minute forty five seconds it is a nice end to the album. It is the only song without percussion on the album.  The band sings a simple group vocal over a pretty piano arrangement. It is the least complicated song on an album filled with complex song structures. It seems to say that simple can also be effective. And effective it is, providing a graceful finish to the album.

Overall Impressions

“Modern Vampires of the City” is another solid entry in Vampire Weekend’s catalogue and sees them continue to progress in their sound. Vampire Weekend show that they are not afraid of changing and taking chances and this confidence keeps them interesting. In an era where bands struggle to stay relevant for more than an album Vampire Weekend defend their status as one of the biggest modern indie bands with ease and keep listeners interested in what they will do next.

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