Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
VAMPIRE Weekend have delivered a near-perfect third album in Modern Vampires Of The City, an endlessly enjoyable collection of songs that manage to touch the heart and engage the brain.
Embodying a fuller, more diverse sound and widening their influences, this is an album that gleefully mixes tempos and styles, whether channelling Graceland-era Paul Simon or classic Beatles, or even the likes of Tom Petty and Primal Scream in terms of storytelling values and sonic ambition.
There’s a sense of the grand and cinematic in some of their intricate instrumentals, as well as songs of great intimacy at other points. There are moments to elate and inspire, just as there are those that melt the heart with their simplicity.
And yet every song has something to say too, whether it’s an ode to a jobless friend on beautiful album opener Obvious Bicycle, which slow-builds deliciously, or the rousing rock of Diane Young, which laments the luck of an intoxicated Irish girl he knows better than to trust given “you’ve got the luck of a Kennedy”.
In those two songs alone, there is a wonderful diversity and an obvious joy in what they’re doing.
Hannah Hunt, conversely, initially strips things right back to something more folksy and Simon & Garfunkel-like… Ezra Koenig’s laidback, smooth vocals providing an entrancing focal point for the song to take hold before it opens up amid atmospheric electronics, hypnotic piano arrangements and guitar and drums. It’s just brilliantly put together.
Everlasting Arms, meanwhile, embodies the sort of percussive and guitar arrangements that wouldn’t sound out of place on Paul Simon’s Graceland LP, providing an infectious groove in which to spin its yarn about finding solace in someone’s arms and overcoming loneliness (“hold me in your everlasting arms”).
If you want upbeat and euphoric, then Finger Back hits the kind of heights usually reserved for the likes of MGMT or Arcade Fire, while Worship You is delivered in rapid style (with a scatter-gun drum beat, rollicking riffs and fast-flowing vocals), yet still manages to reference Paradise Lost and Nick Cave, before also adding a saxophone based finale that’s an absolute blast.
Ya Hey, meanwhile, weaves intricate, almost classic piano arrangements around a dub groove and their take on the Old Testament story of the burning bush (“through the fire, through the flames, you won’t even say his name”). The chorus, meanwhile, provokes the desire to chant along with it, setting up the possibility of a concert favourite.
If the album ends on a more sombre note than much of what has come before it, then that’s no bad thing either. Hudson has a haunted, eerie quality about it with a hymnal backdrop that almost fly in the face of the marching-drum style beats. It stops you in your tracks and gives pause for thought with lyrics such as “over and over again all these never ending vision”.
Final track Young Lion barely offers any more consolation, but is built around a beautifully sparse piano arrangement and the lyric “you take your time”. It finishes quickly, too, leaving you wanting more.
But then it’s an easy temptation to give into, returning to the beginning to hear these brilliant songs all over again and discover what you may have missed the first or second time.
Vampire Weekend have undoubtedly crafted one of the year’s best albums. And their own personal masterpiece to boot. There simply isn’t a track to dislike or disappoint.
Download picks: Obvious Bicycle, Step, Diane Young, Hannah Hunt, Everlasting Arms, Worship You, Hudson, Ya Hey