ALBUM: Modern Vampires of the City
ARTIST: Vampire Weekend
It is difficult for band to gain credibility when after a couple albums they have produced, critics keep telling them that their aesthetic is preppy, rich kids trying to make accessible music for the indie alternative masses. But what happens after the first, second, and third album have progressed the band well passed this immature stage of lyrical and production ignorance that critics claimed they had? Can they stand by their socio-economical prejudices? But what about the music? What Modern Vampires of the City has officially propagated for Vampire Weekend is that they can watch in satisfaction that those critics go hiding behind their laptops as their third album keeps increasing in popularity, integrity, and profit. One might even call it the album of the year. While undeniably keeping the band’s original upbeat bourgeois rock sound that has been well manifested through their Self-titled album and Contra, Modern Vampires of the City has portrayed almost a type of revolutionized sound for the band, or at least is able to display their versatility. This album displays ingenious experimentations with sounds, playing around warmer vocals, gospel inspired melodies, and the use of quartet instruments while contrasting against the matured lyrical content that focuses on religion, death, to quarreling couples. Without losing the trademark sound that Vampire Weekend has heavily invested in throughout their music career, their third album ricochets them into a whole new level of music mastery.
Pummeled with religious allusions to create an almost existential tone, Modern Vampires of the City is their most intellectual and confrontational album to date. With references to Latin hymns about judgment day to Greek history, one definitely will spend a fair amount of time on Google trying to grasp the meaning of each song. Yet despite the fact that their lyrical content may not be as accessible for the masses, it is what makes their music style and album one of their best. Not only are they making music that has some sense of a brain; they are making it with a brilliant ear too. On this album, the African pop music that has held high influence on them in their earlier work is more subdued but mixes in perfect harmony with other influences including classical music. With production wiz Rostam Batmanglij, the album ranges from dark and solemn on "Hannah Hunt" to that classical mixed with African sound on "Everlasting Arms". The album offers a diverse sound for Vampire Weekend while they experiment with different genres that are not their original preppy rock. With voice manipulation, lots of sampling, and angelic choruses, the band has given birth to something that is comfortable but fresh.
The lyrical genius of this twelve-track album is a key presence to what makes the album shine through with brilliance. Ezra Koenig has crafted lyrics on this album that question an entire institution, maybe even an entire society, many times in a quirky way with playing on words, especially in "Diane Young" and "Ya Hey". Whether it is questioning the name of a God or questioning how one should live his or her life based on age, Koenig tackles these heavy topics with ease and intelligence. The album’s main themes comprise of religion, age, and New York. In all of their albums Vampire Weekend makes a type of ode to the buzzing city. Multiple Manhattan references are thrown around on this album, from a falafel shop to a history lesson on "Henry Hudson". The entire album is infused with clever lyric content with a combination of wise and comical intentions. Lines such as, “Nobody knows what the future holds/ it’s bad enough just getting old/ live my life in self-defense/ You know I love the past, because I hate suspense” on "Diane Young" to “Wisdom’s a gift but you trade it for youth, Age is an honor but it’s still not the truth,” on "Step", make Modern Vampires of the City hold some of the best lyrics written in years. The album has dozens of layers, production wise and lyric wise, which makes it a challenge to fully analyze every bit, but this is what makes it a timeless listen.
What Vampire Weekend has constructed here is an album that not only is radiant in lyrical content and orchestration. That is not only strong enough to break their criticism and cultivate more fans. That is not only strong enough to be voted as one of the best albums of 2013, if not the best. They have constructed an album that is changing the idea of what rock ‘n’ roll should be. They have given birth to a new genre that can be intellectual as well as groundbreaking. Vampire Weekend is not only questioning religion and society, but also music herself. Not only are we seeing a modern version of Vampire Weekend, but as a result, a modern revision of a genre.
"Wisdom’s a gift but you trade it for youth, age is an honor but it’s still not the truth"