Saturday, January 09, 2010
Album Review: Vampire Weekend - Contra (2/5)
It was cool how well-received American indie band Vampire Weekend's self-titled debut album was, their abrasive mix of Indie rock and African beats (dubbed Afro-pop) didn't connect with any earth-shattering sales, however did have critics in unison mostly praising the album for their intelligent and engrossing lyrics. I liked it too, however initially was a hard pill to swallow--it was more than your typical indie-rock album.
If you liked their first album, their second release Contra should act as the perfect follow-up. Much hasn't changed except more complex sounds, stronger melodies and a more flavorsome production and whilst it definitely has its moments, it proves rather under whelming in my opinion, even with its short 10-track set I don't like it as much as Vampire Weekend. Maybe the lyrics aren't as brisk or it just comes down to taste, but from the likable whit of VW, there's seems to be some magic lost in the process.
"Horchata" is a pleasing opener, definitely less bracing than the scattering rhythmic sounds of "Mansard Roof," the last albums opener. This is more mellow with hints of orchestration and taunting African drums, better is the jittery follow-up"White Sky," laced with a mash of synths and guitars. The band have been often compared to fellow American rock group, The Strokes. Their debut was cited as a recall of, Is This It, and while I couldn't see the similarites myself however I can draw some on here. The albums first upbeat track "Holiday," pulses with bursts of distorted guitars, drums and keyboard work--the same sort of abrupt composition as The Strokes' "Modern Age." It's one of the albums highlights.
Other highlights include the romantic "Taxi Cab," I like its soft production, fronted by swift piano keys and rhythmic handclaps. "Run" is another favorite, fleeting with a wide array of different sounds, including computerized synths, harmonicas, drums and a restless bass line.
With its handful of highlights intact, there is a fair amount of the album I don't like and just can't into. The weirdly composed "California English," I just don't understand, it's very confusing. Lead single "Cousins," is definitely no "A-Punk," I liked its climatic, rapid crashing of drums and guitars but the novelty of that wore off rather quickly and now I don't care for it. Synth-laced "Giving Up the Gun," doesn't move me at all.
Sampling MIA is "Diplomat's Son," a subdued mid-tempo fronted by synth, bass and other noise. It's not bad, I don't love it though and closing track "I Think Ur a Contra," is a spacey ballad with various soundscapes and sounds, very subdued and orchestral. It's a pleasing close to the album.
I appreciate the band tried to re-create the magic of their first album while implementing obvious differentiation, however it did fall short for me, not quite as tight, smart or whitty as its predecessor. And even with its handful of highlights it's probably not something I want to give a second listen to, which dismisses signs of it being a grower.
Best: Taxi Cab, Run, Holiday, I Think Ur a Contra