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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    New York to Kinshasa in a ‘Weekend’

    Vampire Weekend (B+)

    Contra

    XL

    Released January 12, 2010

     

    Vampire Weekend wears their preppy image as a badge of honor — the album’s cover is an astutely ironic jab at the band’s demographic — and for good reason. Their debut is more divisive than health care reform.

    With Contra, they’ve expanded their sonic palette — a dub bridge and sampled drum claps on “”Diplomat’s Son,”” jazz piano backing on “”I Think Ur A Contra”” — without betraying their love of Soukous and classical music. While their brand of Afrobeat-influenced, electronic indie pop does not have the immediacy of their debut, Contra suggests greater complexity and reverence. The band no longer sounds like they are simply biting their hooks from King Sunny Adé — the cuts on Contra are wholly authentic.

    Singer Ezra Koenig’s vocals are still homely, especially on “”White Sky,”” but the band’s penchant for layered crescendo enables his warbled vocals to be more charming than grating. Koenig has also managed to take the training wheels off his lyrics. He still stumbles through improper attempts at humor, but he also delivers killer lines like, “”In the shadow of your first attack / I was questioning and looking back / You said baby we don’t speak of that / Like a real aristocrat”” from the song “”Taxi Cab.””

    On standout track “”Giving Up The Gun,”” the band’s cross-pollination of genres hits an apex. Start-stop drumming, gentle pop vocals, a chugging guitar riff and soaring choral work plays alongside strings and dance-punk synthesizer. Even lead single “”Cousins”” refuses to bend to convention with chaotic guitar work over a warp-speed synth riff and chiming bells.

    Experimentation has its limits, though. Koenig sounds downright idiotic trying to T-Pain his way through the verses of “”California English.”” It’s a distracting venture into a tired music genre, something Vampire Weekend has no business doing. They are a band whose bread and butter has been glorifying underappreciated world genres, not scraping at the bottom of the American rap barrel.

    Oddly enough, it’s this self-presentation that has most detractors irked: Who named these guys ambassadors of world music to the hipster crowd? Vampire Weekend did. Because they’re really damn good at it.

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