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Album Review
Contra

Contra
by Vampire Weekend

Label
XL
Rating

Review Date
January 30th 2010
Reviewed by
Ryan Eyers

Sophomore records are never easy, especially for a band like Vampire Weekend, whose innovative and widely-hyped debut inspired passions of adoration and hatred in equal doses from critics and listeners alike. In Contra then you might expect to hear an album that is less ambitous, risky or adventurous, perhaps reflecting the criticisms levelled on them. Instead, we find out something that, depending on what you thought last time, may or may not be surprising: Vampire Weekend have mettle.

Considering their preppy, priveledged image its a big act of rock’n’roll badassery that on Contra Vampire Weekend are totally comfortable to make the same kind of music that was met with such harsh reactions from some quarters last time around. The band simply don’t seem to care what you think of them, their image or their sound and as a result their music is infused with a reckless glee that’s incredibly infectious. This is summery, intelligent indie pop at its best, which manages to feel softer and and more relaxed than the frenetic, twangy stuff of their debut while retaining its upbeat energy. This is largely due to Batmanglij’s delicate, throbbing keys forming the core of songs like the calypso-tinged ‘Horchata’, the delightfully cascading ‘White Sky’ or ‘Diplomat’s Son’, where his playful ivory tingling mixes with a fuzzy bass synth line and an M.I.A. sample that complements Koenig’s lilting vocals. Rest assured, guitars still make strong appearances, most notably on the breathless ‘Cousins’, whose plucky riffs, sliding tremolos and frantic drumrolls help the album retain its momentum and break up the dominance of the meandering synths. Lyrically, Koenig’s vocals still sometimes struggle for sense but are at their best on songs such as the beautifully considered closer ‘I Think UR A Contra’, displaying a deft poetic touch that stops them from feeling too clever.

Overall, Contra shows a band secure and confident in their abilities, sound and most importantly their own skin. It’s an approach that gives Vampire Weekend the chance to try new sounds and styles and actually pull off tricks like the jumbled auto-tune of ‘California English’, resulting in a kaliedoscope of an album that is sure to brighten any mood or room with its irrepressible energy, relentless fun and general awesomeness.






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