Vampire Weekend blew up in 2007 when their self-titled EP blazed through the indie blog and forum circuit. Despite the hype and expectations surrounding its release in 2008, the band’s debut album, Vampire Weekend, was a rousing success, selling a cool half-million copies. A skilled group of musicians combining a myriad of influences, notably African and 70’s era pop, the quartet from Columbia self-produced one of 2008’s best albums.
And that’s where Vampire Weekend picked up from when going into the studio for 2010’s Contra. The album’s sound is generally tighter and louder; the drums are more prominent, the guitar a little more brash, and the beats more ‘in-your-face.’ The band keeps up their tradition of contrasting loud and soft sounds, melancholy and cheerful.
The album may seem more like a B-side to Vampire Weekend, but that’s not a bad thing; certain songs (“Horchata,” “Taxi Cab,” “Cousins”) stand out as some of the best material the band has ever written. However, some songs sound like byproducts of some superior product.
Other tracks find the band using less roots-based percussion and vocals, instead exploring in different directions with synths and more pronounced beats (“White Sky”).
The result is something like “one step forward, half a step back.” The band is taking their original charm and talent in new directions and it’s fun to listen to. Contra builds on Vampire Weekend’s momentum in new and interesting ways, and while every song may not be a classic, it’s a solid record with some exceptional songs that deserves a run-through.