Best New Albums 2013 – #16: Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Running through the end of the month (with a short Christmas break), I’ll be running a post each weekday taking a look at one of my top 20 albums of the year, slowly working my way down to number one. Some I’ve reviewed previously for Bearded Gentlemen Music – I’ll provide links where necessary – and the entire list will eventually end up there, too. But for most of these records, this is the first time I’m writing about them at length, making this a chance to explain my choices in a little greater detail. Last year’s list is no longer online, but for 2011’s Best Canadian Music click here and for 2010’s list, click here.

#16: Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

In the few years since they released Contra, I started to wonder if Vampire Weekend would ever outlive the waves from their first album. Contra certainly sounded like Vampire Weekend Part Two to me, which was sometimes a good thing: they knew where their strengths lied and even if it wasn’t especially ambitious, they cranked out poppish, vaguely Graceland-ish and very verbose pop.  How would Modern Vampires of the City compare?

Sometimes, it sounds a lot like their first album. There’s bouncy rhythms, Ezra Koenig cramming as many words as he can between guitar riffs and even a harpsichord or two.

Sometimes it doesn’t: Diane Young rocks as hard as anything of theirs I can remember and explodes into bursts of distorted guitar and keyboards; Finger Back is frantic, with a raging energy that hasn’t been there before. Even Koenig’s singing sounds like he’s trying to get it all out as fast as he can. And on Hudson, he sounds downright depressed, singing at a lower register over what sounds like funeral organs, lush strings and a line of snare drums.

It’s an interesting change of pace for the band. It’s a darker album, the sound of a band who aren’t having so much fun anymore. Where they once sang about campus life or hanging on the beach with a drink, now Koenig wonders about God: “Through the fire and through the flames,” he sings on Ya Hey, “You won’t even say your name.”

It’s a welcome change. I’m glad to hear they’re growing up.


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