CD review: Vampire Weekend, ‘Modern Vampires of the City’

Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City

Posted 8:33am on Thursday, May. 16, 2013

Baby bands trying to break out in the 2010s are subjected to inordinate amounts of Internet-fueled pressure before a single note is ever heard.

In the bygone days of 2008, Vampire Weekend was a case study in making something out of almost nothing. With its debut album yet to be released, the New York-based foursome was the first band to land on the cover of Spin magazine before an album was available, and found itself performing on Saturday Night Live just weeks after Vampire Weekend hit shelves.

The hurricane of hype sustained itself for nearly two years, before VW’s sophomore outing, 2010’s Contra, cooled things off.

The quartet’s third album feels more confident, suggesting the sophomore stumble rightly inspired some recalibration. Modern Vampires of the City finds a way to wed the esoteric whimsy of Vampire Weekend with Contra’s more stark, spacious style. Most importantly, Ezra Koenig and his bandmates have reconnected with the playful, inventive sense of discovery that made their first album so enjoyable.

Long shadows of melancholy are pierced by quirky elements like the pitch-shifting of Koenig’s breezy vocals (lead single Diane Young makes fine use of the effect). And there are more subtle sounds, too: Ya Hey is a late-album stunner synthesizing pop-rock, reggae and electronica. It neatly sums up just how far VW has come.

Produced by the band’s Rostam Batmanglij with Ariel Rechtshaid, City is being billed by Vampire Weekend as the conclusion of a trilogy, but such salesmanship also suggests a misleading weight to the record.

But by fusing a touch of hip-hop swagger with its cultivated air of sophistication, Vampire Weekend does close the circle between its first and latest LPs.

Bursting out of nowhere in the late 00’s with a sound heavily indebted to Afro-pop, only to survive and become a band smarter about deploying its disparate influences, Vampire Weekend proves that trials by fire — and surviving the heat of early hype — can sometimes forge a lasting band, and one worth cherishing.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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