With their popped lacoste polo collars and boat shoes, Vampire Weekend seems to be the antithesis of their name. Since debuting their first, self-titled album in 2008, Vampire Weekend have embraced their contrarian reputation and continuously break expectations of fans and critics.
Recently named “Album of the Year” by Rolling Stones Magazines, Modern Vampires of the City, discards their collegiate image without alienating old fans. The songs themselves remain distinctly branded as Vampire Weekend originals, incorporating African steel guitar, Dominican rhythms, witty lyrics with cultural references, and infectious melodies. But, the album cover’s depiction of a hazy New York City of the past gives off a certain futuristic vibe, which betrays that MOVTC is different from anything that Vampire Weekend has done before.
This new album opens with “Obvious Bicycle” which welcomes the listener with a vaguely hopeful melody that lacks the expected, frenzied guitar riffs and stringed interludes, making it clear that this is a new Vampire Weekend. The song’s lyrics themselves turn from the light-heartedness that characterized their debut album, and are largely reflective, hinting at darker, introspective topics such as success and mortality. In MOVTC, Vampire Weekend examines heavier topics with playful lyrics and a healthy dose of self-awareness.
In the track “Diane Young”, which is wordplay on the phrase “dying young”, lead singer Ezra Koenig’s voice is manipulated several octaves lower as he repeats the word “Baby” over and over again creating an eerie effect. The use of autotune is just one of the new production techniques producer and band member Rostam Batmanglij has employed with the help of new producer Ariel Rechtshaid. In “Ya Hey”, spoken word and squeaky Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks-styled “ya hey’s” blends together to create one of the album’s catchiest tracks.
Some tracks such as “Hannah Hunt” and “Hudson” explore the melancholy arrangements that first appeared in their sophomore album, Contra, with frontman, Ezra Koenig’s haunting vocals transporting listeners to the eerie New York City pictured on the cover. While the cheery “Finger Back” and “Worship You” are reminiscent of their “Oxford Comma” days, recalling days on the shores of Cape Cod.
MOVTC is a true culmination of the music Vampire Weekend has created over the past 5 years. Without losing their “Upper West Side Soweto” roots, Vampire Weekend has cemented their inimitable style in this masterfully crafted album worthy of the title “Album of the Year”.