Despite the backlash from its much-hyped debut album, the NY-based Vampire Weekend avoids showing any signs of a sophomore slump with its latest album, Contra. The foursome of Ivy-Leaguers preserves the same elements that made its self-titled debut one of the most well received releases of 2008. It makes an eclectic but predictably accessible album that will undoubtedly score the band a spot on many a film soundtrack to come in 2010.
Intact are all their most embraced stylistic trademarks: simple yet catchy melodies, a fondness for world instrumentation (particularly African pop) and a collection of clever, playful, visual and often bizarre lyrics. While Vampire Weekend blurred the lines in between songs and was strongest when listened to as an entire album, Contra takes a alternative approach and uses very different and distinct sounds on each song.
The result is a number of songs that sound well together without sounding the least bit alike. “Horchata” is the most catchy, with a playful melody and equally quirky lyrics. “White Sky” is possibly the band’s strongest track, but “Holiday” is also noteworthy and sounds the most reminiscent of their debut tracks. The instrumentation has further diversified, expanding the roles of each member within the band. A number of songs in the middle of the album boast a heightened reliance on drum and bass.
Contra pushes the texture of Vampire Weekend’s songs even further. “California English” allows for more vocal effects, changing tempos and atypical arrangements while lyrically matching rhymes like “brass cakes” with “sweet taste” and “Philly cheese steaks” with “toothpaste.” “I Think Ur a Contra” reveals a much softer, ambient side of the usually upbeat band.