Monthly Archives: January 2010

Vampire Weekend – Contra

Vampire Weekend – Contra

4/5

2010

And then Vampire Weekend was everywhere. Well, at least as everywhere as an indie band can be these days, really only rivaled by MGMT in their underground/mainstream appeal. But the attention was warranted, mind you, because their 2008 self-titled debut album was really one of the more surprisingly assured and tuneful debuts of the decade, able to back up their hype with a significant amount of substance. The question lies, then, in its follow-up. Bands with such notoriety and distinct style wind up with a whole lot of backlash, and Vampire Weekend are no exception. Yet, they may be able to silence a good amount of their detractors with 2009’s Contra, which is neither a rehash of the first album nor a radical departure. Instead, Vampire Weekend have crafted an album which is still unmistakably theirs but adds a slew of new elements to the mix. Lyrically, Ezra Koenig is still obsessed with places, details, and polysyllabic rhyming (all of which are illustrated by the first few lines of the album, by the way), but here he is much more subdued and his lines often reflect a growing struggle in social status and image. Take the sparse closer “I Think Ur A Conta”, where Koenig tells a lover “you wanted good schools and friends with pools…Never picks sides, never choose between two but I just wanted you.” Vampire Weekend know they are of a privileged social class but they aren’t ashamed and they don’t think that you should be ashamed of your status either whatever it may be. They try not to worry what others think of them which gives them a confidence in their own musical growth.

Consequently, Vampire Weekend have expanded upon the quirks of their sound giving them a wider sonic palette without abandoning their mix of new wave and Afro-pop rather than rehashing their sound or drastically changing it in reaction to their success. Yet, the only two songs that could fit comfortably on their debut are the breezy opener “Horchata” and the jagged, jittery “Cousins”. On Contra, synthesized beats and sounds are more likely to jut up against organic percussion and orchestration courtesy of keyboardist/producer Rostam Batmanglij. Elsewhere, an M.I.A. sample and a rocksteady beat sit comfortably with lyrics of a rough drug-addled night on “Diplomat’s Son” and electro-pop propels “Giving Up The Gun”. Sure, most of this isn’t as immediate as their predecessor but when a follow-up to one of the most successful indie albums of the 2000s is this satisfying, who’s complaining?

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Eugene McGuinness – Eugene McGuinness

Eugene McGuinness – Eugene McGuinness

4/5

2009

With a critically acclaimed  EP already under his belt, Anglo-Irish wiz-kid Eugene McGuinness returns with his first full length album full of the same eclecticism and wit that he had previously shown. The longer play time, though, allows for him to cover a larger amount of territory. Beginning with an exercise in skiffle (“Rings Around Rosa”), McGuinness bounces between dreamy, gentle balladry (“God In Space”, “Those Old Black And White Movies Are True”), spiky new wave (“Fonz”), and Smiths-esque college rock (“Moscow State Circus”). Yes, the Smiths is an obvious touchstone as McGuinness can croon like Morrissey and can write a distinctively British lyric with literate intelligence, but he isn’t so easily pigeon-holed. His eclecticism and cleverness positions him as the successor to Blur’s Damon Albarn but with the attitude of Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner. Few songwriters of the post-Britpop era can write with such confidence and grace as Eugene McGuinness, establishing him as an up and coming artist that bears watching.