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album review: vampire weekend, ‘modern vampires of the city’

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For me, Vampire Weekend has always provided an accurate soundtrack for significant life milestones. And so, just as 2010’s Contra went hand in hand with a soul-searching jaunt around Europe, Modern Vampires of the City seems to perfectly sum up where I’m at now, as we perch on the cusp of winter.

The opening track, Obvious Bicycle, signals a more reflective style for the band. Featuring lush vocal harmonies, soft piano accompaniment and calls to “listen, don’t wait”, the mood feels considerably darker. The second track, Unbelievers, features the more familiar upbeat drums, but the lyrics again point to a more contemplative attitude. Orchestral music elevates the dramatic content of Step, and while it sounds great, I’m waiting for the trademark pick-me-up.

Fortunately, Diane Young comes along and is an instant pop classic. While the lyrics still point to the darker theme of death that featured in the opening tracks, there is an exuberance that was absent earlier in the album. Later, Everlasting Arms is another gem, mixing biblical allusions with beautiful lyrics, which make you believe in the band all over again. The next track, Finger Back, features seemingly nonsensical lyrics, coupled with recurring themes of mortality and the passing of time, with frontman Ezra Koenig crooning “I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die.”

The album is grand in both its lyrical content and style, and will reward multiple listens. While it doesn’t appear to have the radio-friendly appeal of Contra, this offering reveals the band’s prowess for clever writing and wonderful musical arrangements. Modern Vampires of the City, with its monochrome album cover and gloomier content, seems the perfect match for the colder seasons. There’s enough light among the shade to prevent listeners from becoming too despondent with such weighty issues as life and death. It seems that we all must grow up – and once again, Vampire Weekend sets the soundtrack for a more mature and contemplative phase of life.

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