“A total shift of mindset becomes fully realized in ‘Modern Vampires of the City’, as Vampire Weekend grow out of their collegiate trappings and exchange youth for wisdom…”
Vampire Weekend | Modern Vampires of the City
Though it may not have matched the mystery (or budget) of Daft Punk’s recent pre-release antics, the build up to Vampire Weekend’s third studio album has been undeniably peculiar.
After dropping two completely different new singles simultaneously back in March, the New York four piece have since gatecrashed the annual NYC Easter parade, claimed column inches for pissing off car manufacturer Saab, and made random cameos on cult TV show ‘Girls’, all whilst seemingly employing Steve Buscemi as their manager/hype man. This rebellion of sorts is no doubt a step away from the clean cut persona they have built their career on, and a trait which has somewhat carried into their music.
A total shift of mindset becomes fully realized in ‘Modern Vampires of the City’, as Vampire Weekend grow out of their collegiate trappings and exchange youth for wisdom.
It would be naïve to suggest that they have completely revamped the buoyant foundations we have come to know and love, and have instead simply built upon them. Opener ‘Obvious Bicycle’ still holds that nostalgic flame with lines like “I’ll be asleep on the floor of our High School gym, thinking of you”, whilst ‘Unbelievers’ and the storming, sax-tastic ‘Worship You’ still sound like the soundtrack to an instagram filtered holiday montage. These classic shades of optimism are set off against more pensive moments in tracks like ‘Hudson’ or ‘Everlasting Arms’, which establishes a new, durable aura amongst the cheer, as for the first time we begin to see Vampire Weekend as a band with longevity.
It is these subtle developments to VW’s calculated sound that ultimately makes the record such a compelling piece of work. The already classic ‘Diane Young’ captures the infectious nuances of their previous singles, whilst taking it to new heights with fairground ride-esque experimentation, getting away with lyrical pop sacrilege through the endlessly catchy “baby baby baby baby” refrain. The equally delightful ‘Step’ plays to the calmer, more composed side of the spectrum, as Koenig tells us “The gloves are off, the wisdom teeth are out” over harpsichords and simplistic piano.
Both their self titled debut and 2010’s ‘Contra’ thrived on an infectious sense of optimism, yet ultimately lacked emotional depth, a point that is rectified throughout this record. The brooding juxtaposition to their past work suggests Vampire Weekend are beginning to feel their age, as the more sombre heartfelt shades of the lyrical content purveys the thought that Ezra Koenig may be going through a quarter life crisis (if there is such a thing).
The album’s most poignant moment undoubtedly lies in the emotive ‘Hannah Hunt’, which features a steady build of distant and unassuming strings before an eruption of emotion from Koenig over perfectly unified layers of instrumental bliss, completely encapsulating their growth over the last five years.
Although less instant than their previous two records, ‘Modern Vampires of the City’ is undoubtedly Vampire Weekend’s strongest record to date. This album manages to embody everything they have done right in their career so far and take it to new altitudes, as they become a band for all seasons, not just the summer.