‘Vampires of the City’
The cover of alternative indie rock band Vampire Weekend’s third studio album, “Modern Vampires of the City,” features a photograph of New York City, the band members’ hometown, on the smoggiest day in the city’s history, on which 169 people died due to air pollution, a uniquely human creation. In the album that follows, a series of vignettes, in the form of 12 spectacular compositions, tell about life, love and faith in the most conversational manner possible. The band has come a long way from not giving a fuck about an Oxford comma. With more layered and experimental songs, the album catapults the band to an all-time high.
Songs begin and end quite abruptly, and you never quite know what to expect — from the light tinkling piano of at the end of “Hannah Hunt” to the simulated strings of “Everlasting Arms,” to the soulful organ at the beginning of “Don’t Lie,” “Modern Vampires of the City” is a collage of mixed media. The album still maintains the band’s ability to make something brilliant out of the simple — simple rhythms, chords and harmonies paired with melodious passages and intricate lyrics. Each song truly has its own character, making it seem as though the band has not one, but several distinct styles.
“Obvious Bicycle,” the first track, is a slow and gentle tune enhanced by a pulsing drumbeat and the rich vocals of talented pianist, guitarist and lead singer Ezra Koenig.
The album showcases the wide range of Koenig’s abilities, from an unforgettable falsetto, to his high belt at the end of “Hannah Hunt,” to low, seemingly distorted vocal tones in “Diane Young,” the album’s lead single. Koenig’s vocal distortion was equally freaky in person, when the band performed on Saturday Night Live earlier this month. Reminiscent of “A-Punk,” perhaps the band’s most memorable single from its eponymous first album, the upbeat “Diane Young,” is already a hit.
“Hannah Hunt” provides a relatable love story for the young listener. “If I can’t trust you then damn it Hannah/ there’s no future, there’s no answer/ Though we live on the U.S. dollar/ you and me, we got our own sense of time,” Koenig softly and sweetly sings as he recalls a story of a young couple on a road trip to California.
Koenig tells a tall tale in “Hudson,” another story-song of his east coast origin. “Hudson died in Hudson Bay/ The water took his victim’s name,” he mysteriously articulates.
Certainly a triumph, and complete with puzzling and mentally stimulating lyrics, unlike most popular lyrics today, “Modern Vampires of the City” shows a more adult side of the rebellious band that released its first album just five years ago. There is not one bad song on “Modern Vampires of the City.” Each song is a true work of art in its own right, many punctuated by the subtle addition of a simple baseline or light piano riff. My only hope is that the greatness of Vampire Weekend’s third album does not cause it to be popular enough for mainstream listeners. As with all indie music, part of the appeal is the lack of popularity.
Keep it that way. Enjoy the album and don’t share with your friends!
Recommended. With strong lyrical depth, this album is one for the books.