Preppy rockers prove intelligence with new release

“Modern Vampires of the City” earns five out of five stars.

Mack Hayden , Writer

They’re growing. On every level, they’re growing. Vampire Weekend came out as precocious, intelligent and unique. They were the kind of band that could be fronted by Max Fischer of “Rushmore” and a plethora of other Wes Anderson characters. That’s never stopped being their niche. Alongside that, the band deserves credit for being incredibly hard to write about or describe. The best most can come up with is, “Well, they kind of sound like Paul Simon,” or “It’s really preppy.” They are one of the most fiercely original bands playing right now and are totally devoid of concern for being cool. “Modern Vampires of the City” is an album intent on expanding their sonic vocabulary both inward and outward.


"In Q Magazine, Frontman Ezra Koenig has said of “Modern Vampires” that the album is intended to be “darker and more organic” as well as being “very much the last of a trilogy.” Self-proclamation can be dangerous for any band, given the possibility they are wrong. But Koenig knows his group and what’s going on. It really does feel like the end of a trilogy that began with their celebrated self-titled debut and continued with the hit-and-miss “Contra.” There’s a strong vibe of resolution over and within each of the songs. They’re still youthfully vibrant, but in a state of maturation are becoming more and more self-aware.

“Obvious Bicycle” opens the curtain on inviting percussion, pleasant piano and Koenig’s always-refined voice and lyrics. It’s a slower opening than their previous two albums’ first tracks, “Mansard Roof” and “Horchata,” but the move comes across as confident. They know they’ve got our attention already, so there is no need to be too flashy just as long as they still have a decent number of things to say. Which they certainly do. They flit through the imagery of academia and nostalgic, textbook youthfulness as well here as they ever have before. Koenig intones “Listen! Oh, Listen! Oh!” as an affirmation of what you’re bound to already be doing anyway.

“Unbelievers” makes modern despair sound like the best thing you can be entertaining your time with. Every lyric adds to the sort of shrugging optimism the band can conjure up in any of their best moments. Sure, things are a bit absurd and depressing, but that’s no reason to be too unhappy. “Got a little soul / The world is a cold, cold place to be / Want a little warmth / But who’s going to share a little warmth for me,” he sings. “Step” is the Ivy League in a song, plain and simple. It’s an MP3 shrouded in graduation gowns, punctuated by twee organs and harpsichords. Then comes the dancey, rapid fire “Diane Young” that has the same Elvis Costello freneticism of their biggest hits, “A-Punk” and “Cousins.”


Other highlights are “Everlasting Arms” and “Worship You,” both powered by a spirituality the group doesn’t bring out that often. “Everlasting Arms” gets the bassline rolling like funk in a silent movie theater, prominent because of how brilliantly underscored it is. “Worship You” starts with a fusillade of acoustic guitar strumming and rattled off lyrics. There’s not much definition to the hope or belief Koenig details here and it sounds like he may be  singing to a God he’s lost or doesn’t know. But there’s a poignancy and earnestness to his newfound spiritual musings worth noticing.

“Modern Vampires of the City” proves to be as modern and urban as its title suggests. It’s always nice when a band makes good on their initial promise. Vampire Weekend is one of the most idiosyncratic bands to come around in a long time. They deserve all the credit they get, and any haters should feel embarrassed. The preppy, precocious, perpetual college kids win on this one. And they didn’t even have to wear leather jackets and skinny jeans.

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