It seems that anyone can get a singing career nowadays. Can’t sing on key? No problem, music execs will auto tune your voice to fix that. Image not sticky sweet or sexy enough? An entourage of hairdressers, makeup artists and stylists can have you camera ready in a couple of hours. Other than that, the proper representation and the mighty dollar will fill in the rest, producing the next pop superstar. In a market oversaturated by “pràt-ta-port” artists that offer little more than the next number one track on iTunes, where are we to find longevity in today’s artists?
Perhaps we can find some refuge in Vampire Weekend, as they offer up a huge serving of high-energy sounds that cut through the conventional crap. Few bands find critical acclaim with their debut album, let alone turn out a solid second. The four Ivy Leaguers, who met while attending Columbia University, catapult their fans into a hyperactive, can’t-sit-still sort of frenzy with their sophomore offering “Contra.”
Made popular by their tracks “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “A-Punk,” Vampire Weekend is a perfect example of oxford-wearing hipsters letting loose. While their debut self-titled album was by no reach sleepy, “Contra” definitely wakes up listeners with bigger sound and sweet little ditties guaranteed to get you moving.
Vampire Weekend notes that they are heavily influenced by “popular African music,” however this album is definitely reminiscent of Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” You can’t help but picture Simon and Chevy Chase in the “You Can Call Me Al (Bodyguard)” video. The album also flows cohesively with a track listing following a rollercoaster ride of power-packed jams sprinkled with not-too-mellow ballads.
San Diegans will definitely give a solid thumbs up to the opening track, “Horchata,” an homage to the tasty Mexican rice milk and warmer west coast climates during the winter months. Lead singer Ezra Koenig notes that he prefers “pincher crabs that pinch at your sandals” over “look(ing) psychotic in a balaclava.” The song also hits “Arcade Fire-like” climax with an explosion of xylophone and tambourine.
Tracks like “The Diplomat’s Son” slow it down with reggae/dance hall rhythms and airy lyrics, while “I Think Ur a Contra” brings your heart back to resting rate with a symphony of violins.
Although it might be too soon to demand a third album by Vampire Weekend (are they in the studio yet?), “Contra” definitely leaves you in anticipation for a three-peat performance. Vampire Weekend truly offers a refreshing change from the copycat top 40 mix that will hopefully become a mainstay in the industry.
Vanessa Gomez is the City Times Editor in Chief