Pretentious Sophistication Worthy of Infallible Admiration: Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City
by Charissa Lock
Ce Le Vie to African tribal beats and that darned misplaced Oxford Comma (which is a favorite of mine), Paul Simon’s Graceland was the last chapter of Vampire Weekend’s musical path. Neither a scornful nor extreme movement from Contra to Modern Vampires of the City (MVOTC ) [XL Recordings] (Out Now) for there are moments of similarity swirling throughout (“Hannah Hunt”). But…there is a sophistication, the tribal drums occasionally placed down while synth effects and other bizzarely intoxicating instruments are picked up, a prestigious attitude of royalty cascading beyond words, all while Ezra Koenig introduces a greater range in his captivating vocals. Maturity in the most unbelievable sense, for their first self-titled album was mature in its own unique, never-done-before landing in adulthood. Yet, their latest twelve tracks are regal, an unspoken understanding of majestic responsibility requiring respect.
Speakers pouring fascinating instrumentation combined with deliciously catchy melodies directly into my eardrums, overflowing my soul into my bloodstream. A warmth with a trace of a quickened heartbeat sails through my body at every piano key, synth melody, and Koenig’s peacefully erratic vocals. Vampire Weekend is an oxymoron and their sound has always been this way. It is in MVOTC that we see a deeper side to this phenomenon. Beautiful piano compositions under horns and mandolins, never being blocked, but always elegantly brought to the forefront midst the plethora of other melodies at many points throughout.
“Obvious Bicycle” introduces you to the expectations you will be carrying with you throughout. Like a caged animal tearing the walls of his cage in quiet, final efforts for freedom, but his unsuccessful attempts have formed an emotional questioning and heightened sense of hopelessness, courage, and perseverance. The faded beats are reminders that in life there will always be a dark cloud looming, many times fuzzy and quiet, but always there. As the album unravels, the quiet tastes of Coldplay (“Hudson”), or 80s undertone of George Michael (“Diane Young”) are here and there, yet in such a subtle way you only find if you’re really searching. In the more obvious way that Ezra so fluidly portrayed stances and movements that screamed “Elvis” on Saturday Night Live during the “Diane Young” performance. Gathering influences of many and letting them flow through a Vampire Weekend atmosphere until they have just the right amount of their unique sound to then spiral into the listeners’ ears.
Modern Vampires of the City has a pompous Victorian, white-wigged sound. Maybe it’s the mandolin, or organ that is pushing towards these images, yet all the rest seems to attach themselves nicely to such a foundation. Every track fits itself in this strange scenario where they are playing in a royal court amongst the prestigious family, relaxed in gold-beaded thrones, admiring these musicians. Perhaps the high quality of composition and production places a role in this as well – as if this music is worthy solely for the elite. Yearning for tracks to have two minute intros and outros, grasping at 20 second solos, being able to pick out an almost hushed instrumental transition, the only faults with this album is its ability to package such perplexities into a forty minute album.
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