Monday, February 22, 2010

Review: Vampire Weekend, Contra

Vampire Weekend
By Clio Seraphim
Host, "Just You, Just Me," Tuesdays 4-6 pm on WGTB
From its outset, Vampire Weekend’s newest album, “Contra,” is nothing short of exciting. The first song, “Horchata,” which was pre-released before the entire album came out on January 11, firmly sets the listener in the mindset of vacation. Since “winter’s cold is too much to handle,” chants lead singer Ezra Koenig, he recommends an escape to somewhere where you can drink horchata—a traditional Latin American concoction—in December, where “crabs pinch at your sandals” and you can regain “a feeling you thought you’d forgotten.” That feeling, the rest of the songs go on to remind the listener, is one of escape to something grander and full of sheer fun. “Holiday” continues this trend, singing the praises of being able to just get away and enjoy oneself. While certainly not a departure from the style of their first album, “Vampire Weekend,” the impression that one gets from “Contra” is lighter, airier, almost pop-ier. It’s almost like “Vampire Weekend,” with hits like “Campus” that clearly recalled the band’s Columbia University origins, is the fall semester: the fun is still there, but it’s tempered by something more serious, maybe the changing of the weather or the imposing school schedule. And then comes “Contra,” and with it, vacation time.

While I smiled along with the album’s fast-paced, Caribbean-inspired beats (with a hint of steel drums), I began to find myself fairly certain the band wanted to personally cheer me up and get me excited for spring break. It certainly broke the winter doldrums of Snowmaggedon and left me looking forward to sun and warmth, to the sheer joy of escaping to a tropical climate. Even with the mounds of gray slushy non-snow heaped up all over campus, I began to be able to clearly visualize the beach whenever “Contra” came on my iPod, even when being buffeted by the cruel Georgetown wind. Songs like “Holiday” and “California English” were especially sunny sounding, and when I try to describe their melodies I feel like the word “frolicking” leaps to mind. That’s another thing that I really enjoyed about the album—it’s very walkable (if that’s an apt way to describe an album, or even a real word). The songs are full of mobility, of beats that jump all around and leave the listener newly energized. Thus, perfectly walkable: it’s great to listen to when you have exactly five minutes to get from, say the ICC to the Car Barn, and need to seriously motivate yourself to speed walk.

Even the last song, “I Think Ur A Contra,” the albums’ slowest and also loveliest, seemed to bring me gently back to the sleepiness and quiet of winter. Vampire Weekend seemed to be reassuring me that vacation can’t last forever, but there can still be something wonderful in the colder months of the year. We can still recapture that energetic spirit of fun and spontaneity that defines vacation time, even when we’re stuck in the midst of the worst blizzard in a century. As Koenig sings in “Run,” we need to get “worlds away from cars / and all the stars and bars” and get to where “a little bit of change is all your little fingers touch.” Even without sailing off to the Caribbean, we can find a little bit of change away from the ordinary, and that can be our vacation. Even if we’re not on the beach, we can still frolic.

Listen to "White Sky" from Contra:


duppy said...

seems like you loved it - why the minus then?

sampson said...
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