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Thread: Vampire Weekend - Contra

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    Grumpy Old Man Music Head's Avatar
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    Aug 2009
    Lancaster, Kentucky, United States

    Default Vampire Weekend - Contra

    released Jan 12th, 2010

    from the album - Cousins

    YouTube - Vampire Weekend - "Cousins" (Official Music Video)

    from all music

    Describing their sound as "Upper West Side Soweto," New York City's Vampire Weekend mix preppy, well-read indie rock with joyful, Afro-pop-inspired melodies and rhythms. Ezra Koenig, Chris Baio, Rostam Batmanglij, and Chris Tomson formed the band early in 2006, when they were finishing up their studies at Columbia University. Taking their name from a movie Koenig made during his freshman year, the band started out by playing gigs at the university's literary societies and at parties. Word spread about Vampire Weekend's unique sound and lyrics ("Oxford Comma," one of the band's earliest songs, referred to comma use in a list of three items), buoyed by the band's self-released EPs, which they recorded in locations spanning their Columbia dorm rooms to a family barn. The buzz around Vampire Weekend reached a peak in 2007: that summer, the band embarked on its biggest tour yet, made several appearances at that year's CMJ Music Marathon, and signed with XL Records that fall. The Mansard Roof EP was Vampire Weekend's debut release for the label, followed by their self-titled first album early in 2008. Debuting within the Top 20 of both the American and U.K. album charts, the eponymous record proved to be one of the year's most popular indie releases. Vampire Weekend celebrated its success by hitting the road for the better part of two years, and keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij gathered additional accolades by releasing an album with Discovery, his electro side project with Ra Ra Riot's Wes Miles. Amidst this flurry of activity, Vampire Weekend found time to return to the studio for the creation of Contra, which was readied for release in early 2010.

    album review

    The scholarly Upper West Side Soweto of Vampire Weekend’s debut sounded self-assured, but on Contra, they step out of their ivory tower with just as much confidence. In all senses of the term, this is a sophomore album. The band still flaunts the collegiate sense of discovery that made Vampire Weekend charming — and sometimes too precious — but with more maturity and creativity. Another Discovery is just as much of a force on Contra as any of the band’s much-noted influences (Afro-pop, Paul Simon’s Graceland): Rostam Batmanglij’s electro-hip-hop-pop project with Ra Ra Riot’s Wes Miles, which released its album LP after the pair found acclaim with their day jobs. While Vampire Weekend aren’t as shiny and sugary as Discovery, some of that adventurousness rubbed off on Batmanglij’s Contra production, which plays to the band’s biggest strength: inspired juxtaposition. The album’s artwork, which pairs a blonde WASP princess in a popped-collar polo shirt with the term given to Nicaraguan rebels, hints at the flair with which Vampire Weekend play mix-and-match on Contra. They throw listeners into the deep end with “Horchata,” which features a four-on-the-floor beat, thumb piano, rubbery synth bass, and massed harmonies — almost everything except the spry guitars that helped define their first album. “California English” goes farther, tweaking Ezra Koenig’s yelp with Auto-Tune, the bęte noire of those who value “realness” in their music; for Vampire Weekend, it’s just another instrument for them to play with. On paper, Contra’s hybrids seem more contrived than they actually sound: “Giving Up the Gun” fuses baile funk, house and stadium rock into a sweet melody propelled by choppy rhythms. “Diplomat’s Son” is even more far-fetched and fantastic, adding samples of M.I.A. and Toots & the Maytals — exactly the kind of things you’d expect to hear on a young globetrotter’s iPod — to nostalgic chamber pop. The album bustles with so many sounds and ideas that it challenges listeners to decide where to put their ears first, particularly on the single “Cousins,” a blur of guitars and jump-cut drums that sounds like abstract punk. Despite this busyness, Vampire Weekend are looser and less cryptic than on their debut, allowing them to tell stories like “Holiday,” an Iraqi war protest set to skanking guitars (ever the font snob, Koenig can’t resist mentioning a headline in “96-point Futura”). Even the few quiet moments are complex: “I Think UR a Contra” closes the album by wanting, and hating, the kind of privilege that brings “good schools and friends with pools.” And though the band is committed to change, the same joy that soared through Vampire Weekend pops up on “White Sky,” which boasts a melody so irrepressible that Paul Simon just might want to borrow it. With Contra, Vampire Weekend make Auto-Tune and real live guitars, Mexican drinks, Jamaican riffs and Upper West Side strings belong together, and this exciting lack of boundaries offers more possibilities than anyone could have expected.

    Track Listing

    1 Horchata Baio, Batmanglu, Koenig ... 3:26
    2 White Sky Baio, Batmanglu, Koenig ... 2:58
    3 Holiday Baio, Batmanglu, Koenig ... 2:18
    4 California English Baio, Batmanglu, Koenig ... 2:30
    5 Taxi Cab Batmanglu, Koenig 3:55
    6 Run Baio, Batmanglu, Koenig ... 3:52
    7 Cousins Baio, Batmanglu, Koenig ... 2:25
    8 Giving Up The Gun Baio, Batmanglu, Koenig ... 4:46
    9 Diplomat's Son Baio, Batmanglu, Koenig ... 6:01
    10 I Think Ur A Contra Batmanglu, Koenig 4:26
    Last edited by Music Head; 17-01-2010 at 15:26.
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