In 2008, New York quartet Vampire Weekend seemingly appeared from nowhere and instantly became indie favourites, with the help of adored anthems such as ‘A-Punk’ and ‘Oxford Comma’. Two years later and they’re back with one of 2010’s first new releases.
Fans of the band’s refreshingly unique sound; part Paul Simon’s Graceland, part preppy rock, won’t be disappointed. However, anyone expecting an album like the self-titled debut; crammed full of singalong fun will be greatly disappointed. Other than superb opener and lead single ‘Horchata’, ultra upbeat try-hard ‘Holiday’ and mid-album pick me ups ‘Run’ and ‘Cousins’, the rest of ‘Contra’ feels remarkably reserved and mellow. This is not necessarily a bad thing; as it’s the grammatically awful ‘I Think UR A Contra’; from a band that once asked, “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford Comma?”, that steals the show in the last minutes. Maybe it’s the uncharacteristic slow pace, or the subtle orchestration, but for all their jingly-jangly guitars and playful wit, this is one of their finest moments to date – just as ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’ is one of The Smiths’.
‘Contra’ may not be the album many expected, but it certainly has more character than a rehash of the original ever would have. Granted, the album may not resonate with some as quickly as the debut, but it does shows new ideas. In a weird way, it feels more like the first album, with the debut’s more honed and accessible songwriting feeling more like the sophomore. But then again, Vampire Weekend never were the most conventional of bands.