Tuesday, 5 January 2010
It can be hard being a 'hype band'. The sheer amount of praise you receive before you have even released your debut will mount unwanted and perhaps unwarranted pressure on you. Then there is the follow up. If you look at Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, one of the original 'hype bands', the pitfalls of this label are obvious with their debut lauded in plaudits but their follow up disregarded by the media and fans alike. But what of one of the newer of these kind of bands, Vampire Weekend? The preppy Ivy League types from New York took the indie scene by storm in 2008 and crossed over to the mainstream with Graceland era Paul Simon sounding pop songs on their self titled debut and the inevitable backlash from the cool indie kids who had 'liked them before they were mainstream'. A fairly successful side project (Discovery) and a clever viral marketing scheme later, they are finally about to release their sophomore effort, Contra.
Opener 'Horchata' is typical Vampire Weekend with Ezra Koenig's sickly sweet vocals yelping over synth pans and marimbas. Contra is safe territory for Vampire Weekend with 'White Sky' being reminiscent of 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa' from their first album, yet the sound seems fuller and the vocals more assured, perhaps showing a young band who are growing in confidence and talent. However, 'California English' takes Contra down a more unconventional route with a much more electronic feel including a vocoder which can be attributed to keyboardist and producer Rostam Batmanglij's side project Discovery who experimented heavily with vocoders and electronica. 'Giving Up The Gun' also shows this influence while being a slice of delicious pop.
The singles from Contra are as strong as any previous singles from the band with 'Cousins' taking the yelping from 'A-punk' and pushing it to hectic proportions. Yet where 'Contra' really benefits is in it's quieter songs such as 'Taxi Cab' and 'Run'. These songs really help to stop the album from being an overblown rushed mess, they help to split up the punkier and more hectic moments and the pace of the album benefits greatly from this.
Contra shows the intent of a a hype band who have no intention of going away while reinforcing what has been done previously. With sold out gigs all across the world, Vampire Weekend are the Little Hype Band Who Could.
Vampire Weekend-White Sky
Vampire Weekend-Giving Up The Gun
The whole of contra is streaming here.