Originally published in the Hindu Metroplus Bangalore edition on June 12th, 2013
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of the City
Rs 120 (MP3)
It’s been three years since we last heard from Columbia students-turned-indie-rockers Vampire Weekend. That New York street/hipster wisdom always gets an air of sophistication when vocalist Ezra Koenig harps on about any subject ranging from money to cousins to Oxford commas.
Now on their third album, Modern Vampires of the City, the band keeps the afro-pop influences, but mould into a slightly darker sound space that is still essentially fun and indie rock. They defy the cheery singles they usually put out first by opening the album with ‘Obvious Bicycle’, a downer of a song with a minimal piano-and-drum beat with tons of vocal harmonies, as Koenig says, “Oh you ought to spare your face the razor/Because no one’s gonna spare their time for you.” Even when there’s a happy beat you’re tapping your feet to, like on ‘Unbelievers’, a clear classic from the band, the lyrics go on about how the world is a cold place. Koenig’s world-wise poetry shines once again, when he says, “But what holy water contains a little drop, little drop for me?”
Guitarist/synth in-charge Rostam Batmanglij, apart from throwing in extra vocals, constructs brilliant structures with bassist Chris Baio and drummer Chris Tomson. They play around with Koenig’s voice, modulating it on the consoling, half-pleading ‘Step’, which features a lush, haunting background. The more simpler, Afro-pop leaning ‘Diane Young’ is, like the play on words in the title suggests, a lament about growing old. There’s a variation of that on ‘Don’t Lie’, and you don’t hear anything too interesting till ‘Ya Hey’ comes on, a song mired in religious symbolism and of course, death.
A lot of Modern Vampires of the City is variations on themes of death, or perhaps a symbolic death of their young selves, as they move into their third album, and a more mature space, whether they like it or not. The usually upbeat music too takes a different turn, toward slower, moodier melodies with sparse beats (especially evident on the dirge-like ‘Hudson’). As long as they’re experimenting, though, there’s little doubt that this album is a winner.