Sound — 9
As an aficionado of music, one's life becomes dictated by the notes and rhythms of their favorite tunes, humming melodies and snapping their fingers even when there are no headphones present in their ears. Rarely, an album comes along that morphs the act of listening into a full-bodied experience. To the kids in coffee shops who have yet to finish looping "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" on their Macs, and the older gentlemen who still have "Led Zeppelin IV" on vinyl, this is another one of those scarce albums. In 2008, Vampire Weekend had established themselves as a four-piece of easily-accessibly indie poppers dressing in preppy clothing and whipping out singles like "A-Punk" and "Oxford Comma" like no tomorrow. The follow-up, "Contra," found them refining their sound and maintaing that nonchalant asthetic only to once again pair it with influences that spanned from classic rock to world music. On their third outing, "Modern Vampires of the City," the band is coming to terms with age, and fighting it as they transition from the 21st Century's extended childhood intro a true adulthood. Opener "Obvious Bicycle" finds upright bass plucks flirting with sparse piano before evolving into Rostam Batmanglij's harmonies that any choir would be delighted to have. "Step" borrows the same chord progression that purportedly every piece of music from Green Day's "Basket Case" to "Pachelbel's Canon" is founded upon. Ezra Koenig's heavily echoed voice sings about every feeling from talking to his elders to being seen with a new girlfriend, all while providing a nod to indie elders Modest Mouse. This is followed up with "Diane Young," a splice of distorted bass and an electronically modified vocal melody that rest above pulsating drums and tight vocal harmonies, which is sure to stay welcome on alternative radio stations for months to come.
Lyrics — 9
"Hannah Hunt" serves as both the lyrical and sonic centerpiece of this masterwork. After nearly three minutes of hush instruments a typical laid-back Koenig, everything explodes. "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 belts these lines at the top of his lungs as slide guitar and a melancholic piano transcend the tranquility found measures earlier into a fully-blossomed tour de force. Keep in mind, this is the same band that 2008 found playing their west-African influenced pop like college kids sitting in the quad killing time before their next class. The point being, this is not that same band.
Overall Impression — 9
The sense of direction has not changed, rather, it has matured. Tunes like "Diane Young" still find Weekend having a blast with every note played, which is the Weekend fans have come to love, but other tracks like "Hudson" find them exploring a darker side. A simultaneous exploration of aging while maintaining an interminable youth through energetic pop charts that never feel like they can be overplayed is onstage here. The band that 2013 is witnessing is no longer rising to the top. The music on this record is as amaranthine as the band members themselves.