Posted on May 13th, 2013 (1:45 pm) by H. William Davis

For most of their relatively short career, Vampire Weekend has been regarded simply as those oxford-clad guys who ramble out charming little pop songs. The motive was refined and educated, gracefully slipping in puns about grammar and dress into catchy, lyric-driven hits. Contra, the bands second album, mixed up the formula with increasingly electronic experimentation, but otherwise kept the plan the same, adding enough new elements to keep the listener on their toes. But whereas Contra felt like a highly orchestrated sidestep of the sophomore slump, the band's third release, Modern Vampires of the City, is a full-fledged record in its own right. The staccato anxiety of Vampire Weekend's first two albums is gone, replaced with a refined elegance that speaks volumes of the band's confidence.

It is, in fact, this newly found confidence that bolsters much of Modern Vampires of the City. Driven by pop allusions and fueled by even more electronic meandering, Modern Vampires of the City is most likely what will define the sound of Vampire Weekend through the rest of their career. It's tempting to call it one of the best pop records in the last few decades, but while that is inconclusive, Modern Vampires of the City definitely interacts with pop music better than any other album in recent memory.

While Vampire Weekend have been compared to Paul Simon with their Afro-beat hooks and sly lyricism, there is a sprawling pop legacy present on Modern Vampires of the City. The Saab burning anthem of "Diane Young" harnesses the confusingly sexy croon of George Michael, while "Hannah Hunt" feels like a Springsteenian yarn, unfolded and unwrapped until the contents of the story are splayed out gruesomely. And then "Unbelievers" is the Billy Joel-esque, unapologetically sentimental, heartfelt piece, actively reaching out for contact. It puts the band in a pit of optimistic loneliness, looking for god and finding it only in other people, harnessing big pop moments all condensed into roiling guitar work and Ezra's always charming vocals until they explode into reverent carnage.

For all the mixed references on Modern Vampires, the band ends up at those Paul Simon roots on "Everlasting Arms". An exquisite love song with more of those energetic beats underlying the chorus, "Everlasting Arms" wilts with refracted verses, eager and authentic lyrics, and pop undertones that all mesh together to make one feel like all of pop music is actually coming together into something, something intelligent and heartfelt and real. It makes one realize why they listen to pop music, which is akin to realizing why one loves, why one thinks, or why one breathes. The song sees Ezra's vocals even stretching far off into Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson territory.

All of these influence perform blatant roles on Modern Vampires, stringing together a pop history while tying the connotations attached to these acts with their own increasingly distinctive sound. While some would argue this sounds effortless, to the trained ear there is obviously pop genius hard at work behind the scenes. Modern Vampires floats together as a masterpiece, each individual track works to promote both its precursor and its predecessor. Everything is strength in numbers on Modern Vampires.

The real beauty of Modern Vampires is how the band manages to take all of these pop and classic rock ideologies and complement them with the pitch-shifted and electronica-tinged learnings of Contra while maintaining the sensibilities established on their first release. It is truly a full culmination of the band's progress, entwining a rich and culturally relevant sound into songs that break past the cliche ideology of what we believe pop music is. The romantic lyricism of "Ya Hey" compares the relationship with god to that of an unrequited love, which works stupendously due to the fact that both issues are often embroiled in the same amount of confusion. The results are profoundly human, for while Koenig insists "Diane Young" is entitled in a way to sound like "a nice person's name," the connotations within are non-negotiable. It directly reflects the way our generations views danger in our private worlds and within the media. In reality, there is very little difference between the mixed connotations of Diane Young and Dying young except one is actually said where the other was meant.

Modern Vampires of the City almost doesn't sound like a Vampire Weekend album. The band has achieved such a pinnacle of pop success, it overshadows both prior albums completely. What is really happening is that the band is refining their sound, getting ready to step into the forefront of our generations pop hierarchy. It isn't that Modern Vampires sounds like a different band, it makes the other albums seem from a different band, one less experienced, less in touch with their craft. It is startlingly different and startlingly good. There is no modern comparison for Modern Vampires because few other bands have dared to do what Vampire Weekend has, and even fewer have succeeded in making anything listenable. It is a classic record, one to listen to now, and a year from now, and decades later still.

Track List:
1. Obvious Bicycle
2. Unbelievers
3. Step
4. Diane Young
5. Don't Lie
6. Hannah Hunt
7. Everlasting Arms
8. Finger Back
9. Worship You
10. Ya Hey
11. Hudson
12. Young Lion

Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires Of The City
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

94 / 100
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