Sunday, January 3, 2010

Vampire Weekend - Contra

The newest batch of world music for the masses has arrived. Forget the afro-pop label garnered by Vampire Weekend’s eponymous debut. The four uber-preppy Colombia grads throw in Brazilian funk, reggaeton, dancehall and ska this time around. New cultures collide, cheerfully bopping next to one another on an album that finds inspiration from almost every corner of the world. Somehow the New Yorkers still sound exactly the same as they did on their debut, albeit with fingers pointed toward the Top 40. On Contra, the boys sample (M.I.A.’s cha-cha vocals begin “Diplomat’s Son”) and turn up the auto-tune (“It doesn't sound like T-Pain,” vocalist Ezra Koenig insists. Debatable.) Despite the LOL-able title, “I Think U R A Contra” proves that VW can make pretty acoustic, string-laden ballads. Elsewhere on the album, the songs energetically jump and hop with Ritalin-laced synths, bouncy guitar, and witty lyrical twists. The album opener, “Horchata,” starts with the couplet, “In December, drinking horchata/I'd look psychotic in a balaclava.” It’s this sense of humor that might keep them from being branded as pretentious, the ultimate kiss of death for today’s indie bands. And with an album this alive, Vampire Weekend isn’t ready to die – it’s just entering adolescence.

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