Vampire Weekend
Modern Vampires of the City


2.5
average

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
May 11th, 2013 | 350 replies


Release Date: 05/14/2013 | Tracklist


If nothing else, I at least have to give Vampire Weekend this: with the release of their third album Modern Vampires of the City, they have almost entirely done away with the tired narratives that surrounded their first two (great) albums. No more will you hear about cultural appropriation, polo shirts, and the Ivy League; these discourses have been abolished in favor of one praising the band for their newfound maturity. Intuitively, this seems like great news: the endless speculation around Vampire Weekend’s collective mores and social identity often masked the music underneath, which was at its core breezy and agile indie pop. So the “maturity” that has been pre-packaged with Modern Vampires--no more oxford commas, kids!--should come as a respite from the onslaught of distasteful tags that used to adorn each new Vampire Weekend release. But in apparently escaping the narrative of class and privilege to which they were so beholden, Ezra Koenig and his crew have simply leaped right into another, this one inviting eager critics to open their reviews lauding Vampire Weekend for “growing up”. This is fine, I guess, but the music of Modern Vampires suffers quite a bit for its apparent sophistication. For all its external indications of progress, this is a deeply boring album.

“Obvious Bicycle,” the album’s opener, is a portent. The song moves along at a glacial pace, Koenig belting some austere falsetto over a simplistic chord progression. Vampire Weekend have done slow songs before, most notably Contra’s “Taxi Cab” and “I Think Ur a Contra,” and I am fine with them. But those songs had both momentum and intimacy to them, whereas “Obvious Bicycle” genuinely seems to go nowhere. “Unbelievers” turns the tempo up but with similar results; it has the quickness of a “Holiday” but none of that song’s melodic agility. This is why I consider Vampire Weekend’s maturation to be such a false narrative: the band aren’t critically changing their formula so much as calling back to past successes, a technique bound to have diminishing returns.

Even “Step,” one of two lead singles and probably the most inventive song here, still displays Vampire Weekend’s reliance on tropes. Awkwardly alluding to Souls of Mischief’s “Step to My Girl” (a la “Oxford Comma”’s Lil Jon shout-out: guys, Ezra Koenig likes rap music!) the song is essentially a classical re-interpretation of--shocker--Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”. It also contains as its opening line “Back back, way back, when I used to front like Angkor Wat.” I don’t really know what that means, but I’m sure Koenig wants me to Google it, after which I can also find out that the melody of the chorus is snatched from the sappy ballad “Aubrey” by Bread. This is always how Vampire Weekend has been, ardently corralling visible influence upon visible influence, never ceasing in their all-encompassing search for the most kaleidoscopic indie pop ever. But where their first two albums had the benefit of strong melodies and captivating production, Modern Vampires has non-entities like “Don’t Stop” and “Everlasting Arms”. The resulting product is a series of references submerged in excessively cool production and left out to dry.

Even the tracks that seem a little warmer don’t reach the heights of past singles like “Cousins” and “A-Punk”. “Finger Back” has to its credit some brilliant verses that finally showcase the athletic pop songwriting we all know Koenig has in him. Even that song manages to fizzle out, however, its chorus unable to support the considerable weight it has been given, its unwieldy production not exactly helping the cause. “Worship You” is certainly sprightly but also completely ridiculous--a clumsy reach-for-the-stars chorus rings disingenuous coming from a band usually so grounded. Only “Hannah Hunt,” the album’s immaculately constructed centerpiece, manages to rise above the mire. The song keeps its volume barely above a whisper for most of its running time until the band decides to take the song to another level, bursting brilliantly into emotional catharsis with Koenig’s impeccably strained voice leading the way. The song is ambitious and perfect--perhaps the best the band has ever done.

It’s really too bad, then, that Modern Vampires couldn’t have been a more interesting--or easily definable--failure. As it stands, it’s just another Vampire Weekend album, except the songs are less catchy and more sterile this time around. I am loath to slot it into a pre-determined chronicle of The Vampire Weekend Story because it seems to me like mediocrity of the most pedestrian variety. The band sought to write a great album and instead came out with a merely okay one. It happens. The hype train is nonetheless already rolling; some people who previously disliked Vampire Weekend will like this, most people who liked the other albums will like it too, Pitchfork will drop a solid 9.0, and everyone will go home happy. But the twenty or so listens I’ve spent on this record are beginning to feel like a waste of time, a whole bunch of ”Why isn’t this good?!” pleading with no real response. That may be some essential part of growing up, both for the band and myself. But I reserve the right to remain disappointed.



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user ratings (602)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • pronounced "RYE-us" (4)
    Vampire Weekend loses the world music element, but keeps the enthusiasm....

    snydely (4.5)
    A change of direction and style for Vampy Weeks, but with that much-loved je ne sais quoi ...

    brandontaylor (4.5)
    If you're not excited, you should be....

    famethrowa (5)
    Listening to Modern Vampires of the City feels like listening to something important....

  • JoeJANB (4)
    Modern Vampires indeed....

related reviews

Contra

Vampire Weekend

Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 11th 2013


15036 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

1) sorry everyone

2) am i the new nick greer *_*

3) yes, i have listened to this a lot

Cygnatti
May 11th 2013


21352 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I believe you, I kinda dug this band but I've barely heard any of their shit.

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robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 11th 2013


15036 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

i seem to be the only one who likes their first two albums but not this. i'm not sure why. it genuinely just seems like the songwriting is not as good. and i also miss what i saw as the poppy, ear-catching production of their first two, although contra trended more toward the production seen on this album

Sleaper
May 11th 2013


3374 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

disagree hard with your rating..

"As it stands, it’s just another Vampire Weekend album, except the songs are less catchy "

this albums definitely much more unique than their previous two. so i guess its not "just another Vampire Weekend album"

pretty good review.

Digging: Iceage - Plowing Into the Field of Love

fish.
Contributing Reviewer
May 11th 2013


21966 Comments


YES

Tyrael
May 11th 2013


20879 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

damn it alex

Digging: Darkspace - Dark Space III I

skoopy48
May 11th 2013


1501 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nah this is pretty good

Digging: Let It Happen - Cause Effect

elephantREVOLUTION
May 11th 2013


2744 Comments


i listened to this a couple times and it wasn't really clicking with me like their other albums. i was never a huge fan of these guys in the first place though. great review

robin
Emeritus
May 11th 2013


4248 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

in love. sorry alex

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 11th 2013


10434 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

ugh see i agree w you on a lot of points but where you say the songwriting sucks i'm like nooooo. i literally like half of the songs here more than anything else they've ever done except oxford comma. i.e., i definitely prefer unbelievers or step or diane young to A-Punk or horchata, which are a lot more simplistic to my ears

Digging: Tennis - Ritual In Repeat

Winesburgohio
May 11th 2013


1030 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I don't think it's up to Contra standards sure but i mean that one-two punch of Hannah Hunt and Everlasting Arms

Digging: Duke Ellington and John Coltrane - Duke Ellington and John Coltrane

ti0n
May 11th 2013


1395 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

contra was the biggest shit ever

Digging: Iceage - Plowing Into the Field of Love

MiNombreEsChon
May 11th 2013


9 Comments




El Richard Camino, vampiro comer

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
May 12th 2013


23828 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I didn't know their first two albums had gotten such praise from the discerning music snob community.
I liked the second one better but I think that's cause I saw them tour it. I'm excited for this, but
not rushed. Review is really well-written, it'll be interesting to see if I agree with any of the
points.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 12th 2013


16027 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I found this to be kind of boring. It's great in a very few and far between moments, but the majority of it sounds lethargic.

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Omaha
Staff Reviewer
May 12th 2013


10207 Comments


When I heard the band's first album, I was really shocked the group had such a following. I dunno, it felt so insubstantial to me-- sweet and sugary, but in one ear and out the other.

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SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
May 12th 2013


16027 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I liked their first two in the 3.5 to 4 range, I think they're more than ear candy but not so much more that they should be celebrated.

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 12th 2013


10434 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

@omaha do you even indie pop??

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McBRBkYqHxc

JazzHands333
May 12th 2013


312 Comments


None of their work has been particularly interesting to me.

CrimsonLies
May 12th 2013


2023 Comments


Phew looked at the rating and almost had a heartache cause I thought this was Vampires Everywhere! for a second there lol



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