Sound — 8
Contra, the second full-length offering from ska rock's Vampire Weekend has all the fun-filled ingredients that fans have come to appreciate about the band who started out as a coffeehouse band in the residence halls of their alma mater Columbia University in 2006. The quartet's mixture of reggae-racked grooves and catchy melodic hooks groom a contemporary version of Paul Simon enriched with cascades of buoyant glockenspiel-toned chimes, rubbery punk-funk squiggles and overtones of whispery strings. Hailed as pioneers of nouveau Afro-pop, Vampire Weekend live up to their reputation. Lead singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig ride the Latin-flavored surf of Horchata with ease as the jutting island riffs and the timpani-toned beats bubble and sprout stenciling a cheery calypso jangle and flaunting a steely sonorous. Bassist Chris Baio displays a sprightly rhythmic pattern along California English as the reggae-basted strokes of drummer Chris Tomson and guitarist/keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij enhance the tunes party-pop atmosphere. The tottering motions in the island beats of White Sky and Run are pleated with a cha-cha tempo, while the cruising grooves of Taxi Cab, Diplomat's Son and I Think UR A Contra are branded with lilting harmonies and satiny tones that lobe a lullaby ringing coated in a glossy gospel veneer. The band makes slits for their digital accoutrements like the twinkling locks fluttering across Giving Up The Gun, the flapping bristles of strings brushing over Diplomat's Son, and the cracks of techno-inscribed incisions along Cousins which have an experimental edge reminiscent of Dear Science. Vampire Weekend's bridle of ska-enameled grooves and cruising coffeehouse-pop riffage keeps the band securely in place as purveyors of nouveau Afro-pop.
Lyrics — 7
Audiences need to read between the lines when listening to Vampire Weekend's song lyrics. Their verses convey messages which are often written in like a secret code. For instance, the track Horchata endorses, Oh you had it, but you lost it / You understood, so you shouldn't have fought it. Each line reads like it is its own entity and disconnected from the following lines, like in Taxi Cab when Koenig surmises, You're not a victim but neither am I / Nostalgic for garbage / Desperate for time. In California English, Koenig perceives, And if it's all a curse / And we're just getting worse / Baby, please don't lose your faith in the good earth. And in Run, Koenig observes, Every dollar counts / And every morning hurts / We mostly work to live / Until we live to work. The lyrics are what you expect from college students who are trying to make sense of their surroundings and what is going on around the world. The lyrics communicate random thoughts and observations that are open to individual interpretation.
Overall Impression — 8
Vampire Weekend's album Contra has many similarities to their self-titled debut album from 2008 in the region of reggae rock and ska-sequined punk, though this second time around, they seem to have explored more ideas using digital-inspired nuances and esoteric-pop, possibly due to Batmanglij's dabbling in electro-club tunage with his side project Ra Ra Riot. The band who got their name from a movie that Koenig made during his freshman year in college, may play around with different musical influences but they never venture far from their Latin-flavored rock roots and that is what got them on the world market in the first place.