Review Summary: Vampire Weekend loses the world music element, but keeps the enthusiasm.
Vampire Weekend's first two albums (released in 2008 and 2010) were successful for a number of reasons. One of the most glaring and prominent was their original and unique take on indie, by fusing Afrobeat and fun, catchy rock. Well, maybe it wasn't as unique as everyone thought it was (they owe their sound to Paul Simon), but it was still a fresh, new, sound in modern American music. The world music aspect is completely taken out on their third album Modern Vampires Of The City
, which is surprising at first listen, for it was one of the most interesting parts of their music. After the initial surprise, the album is a grower, and just as catchy as fun as its predecessors.
The melodies are just as interesting and classically influenced--possibly the best track on the album, "Step," borrows its chord progression from Pachelbel's legendary "Canon in D," but its quirky and sometimes pompous lyrics keep the track moving, as well as its romantic and slow pace, much like its classic ancestor. It also displays Ezra's love of hip-hop, as the lyric "Step to my girl" is borrowed from the rap group Souls of Mischief's song. However, the other single, "Diane Young," is somewhat cute for its play on words, but ultimately unmemorable. Its use of auto-tune is unnecessary, but luckily it's short, so it keeps your attention for its run time. The last single released, "Ya Hey," is a slow, building song, to an explosive climax--its soaring chorus. The chipmunk voices are a bit irritating, but getting past that, it's one of the best songs on the album. It's the type of song that would be the centerpiece of their live performances, due to its singalong, arena-ready nature.
But the singles aren't the only strong songs on the album. Some of the deeper cuts are just as good, or better, than the singles. "Don't Lie" is a delectable slice of indie-pop, showing everything good about Vampire Weekend--the thunderous drums, the intimate melody, the infectious chorus. Hannah Hunt's first half is a minimalist, somewhat dull piece, but the track grows into a much more interesting, more dynamic song. Not every song is as stellar as these, unfortunately. "Worship You" feels like it's attempting to be as irritating as possible--it's sung so quickly the lyrics are indiscernible, and the melody goes nowhere. "Finger Back" is in the same vein, with its pretentious spoken bridge, however not quite as annoying.
As an album, Modern Vampires Of The City
is Vampire Weekend at their best. The songwriting is top-notch, though some tracks have unneeded touched up vocals. Also, the closer "Young Lion" is underwhelming, and "Worship You" is, simply, a dud. This is a new direction for Vampire Weekend, but they still show that they can write excellent songs without the African influences. They've clearly matured, and have shown the world that they're one of the most exciting and interesting indie bands of the 21st century.
Overall Rating: 4.1