ALBUM REVIEW – Vampire Weekend – “Contra” (XL – 2010)

January 21, 2010

Rating: 4/5

After a strong, consistent debut album, the key to a making good sophomore album is not losing sight of what you have done in the past, making sure that you push things forward, and finding a good middle ground in between.   One can think of the Stooges’ Fun House, Pavement’s Crooked Rain Crooked Rain, the Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible, and now Vampire Weekend’s ContraContra does very much resemble its predecessor at times, but it never sounds redundant.  One thing that definitely remains the same is the excellent song craft.  These songs are just as catchy and as anything on Vampire Weekend, not to mention another impeccable production and arrangement job by guitarist/keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij.  What’s different is that the album doesn’t sound as organic as the last, with the use of electronic elements increasing, such as the use of Auto-Tune on “California English” and the synth sounds on album closer “I Think Ur A Contra”, which recall Sigur Ros’ ( ).  There is also a heavier influence of reggae/ska, heavily clear on “Diplomat’s Son”.  Overall, what Contra does suggest is that Vampire Weekend are moving forward with their music, and if they can continue with the kind of gradual progression found between this and their debut, Vampire Weekend will be making exciting music for years to come.

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