Back when Vampire Weekend broke in 2008 with their eponymous self-titled debut, I was charmed by their inane sense of a hook. But what were they saying? I could not possibly relate to this waspy-whimsical contour waves of jangly rich-kid pop. But the hooks! They were so irresistible, despite my overall impression that they really didn’t have anything to say that wasn’t swashed in counter-intuitive bucklings of irony.
But when Contra surfaced a few years later, I found justified in saying Vampire Weekend was, in fact, a one-trick pony. Their aesthetic had little longevity, as the record was unimpressive and devoid of humor and charm. Modern Vampires of the City is so markedly different, interpretive, and dense. Where their previous trails showed a band relying on novelty, this latest record throws all that to the wind for an airy introspective work of narrative meandering. Vampire Weekend is much older, and they seem overwhelmed by thickened smog that seems to curtail the world. This isn’t party pleasantry anymore. The record is much more sophisticated in a number of ways, not just through the production but in the style choices and the helping of lyrics about death, failed love, and why our future is probably going to be kind of shitty.
Diane Young is a bright spot midst atmospheric slow jams. This marks the band’s closest rumination with their earlier ‘Horchata’- type numbers. But if Diane Young celebrates the naivety of youth before the storm, Hannah Hunt showcases the impending doom of it all. In a minimalist style, the song takes a while to take off- floating about in this actionable netherworld of self-deprecation. The last minute, a charming little piano rises above the sound and brings the track to fruition.
The album, as a whole, really strays away from that percussive tribal sound that seemed to dominate the band’s earlier material. But the band does embrace it for a moment in the drum-focused Everlasting Arms. Modern Vampires of the City is such a grower. On first blush, few of the songs have a powerful sense of pop to stick around. But the hooks that are there are spacious and melancholy. And that tends to sum up the record rather well. It is not a shining accomplishment to ruminate the year (let alone decade) but it is an effort of a band trying to do the only thing they could do to keep themselves relevant in the future. It is a smart, enchanting collection of pop-capades, experimentation, and slow build-ups that will not win over fans that left them in recent years, but it will certainly turn heads by those who appreciate substance and slow marinations.