Vampire Weekend – clean, sharp and near-pefect

FOR SOME of you, I’m going to make this easy and summarise the review in the next two sentences.

Vampire Weekend’s third album, Modern Vampires Of The City, is not just the best album of the summer, but a strong contender for the best album of the year. Their self-titled debut was incredibly strong, their second more experimental (if not always successful); and this latest album is where the best of the first and second albums meet. What is created is simply glorious.

In comparison to the first album, the production seems cleaner and sharper, the melodies are as immediate and accurate as you’d hope for and the production seems less fussy than before. The band still takes in a wide variety of instrumentation from the standard drum, bass and guitar set-up to harpsichords, whirring synths and even shorts hits of brass.  It seems like the band has outsourced for the first time, and bringing in co-producer Ariel Rechtshaid, who compliments Rostam Batmanglij (the producer of the first two albums and band multi-instrumentalist) has provided an extra level of care that the band needed. Rechtshaid, who is best known for producing the Plain White T’s hit ‘Hey There Delilah’, brings a pop sheen that benefits the band’s bright musical style.

What really sets this album apart from the first two is that below the upbeat instrumentation, the vocals provide a strong strain of melancholy. Ezra Koenig’s voice sounds better, as it has aged from his preppy yelp  into a smoother, less excited David Byrne-esque croon. The lyrics seem to form a central theme of doomed summer romance: the excitable moments tempered by the knowledge that it won’t last longer than the sun does. One album highlight is in ‘Unbelievers’, in which he sings “I know I love you. And you love the sea. Wonder if the water contains a little drop for me”. When sung over what can only be described as African-infused Surf-Pop, this doesn’t seem nearly as painful as it should, but that is part of the band’s idea: you only realise how sad the happy moments were when you think back on them.

The album’s first seven songs are a near-perfect run. From the downbeat and potentially divisive opener ‘Obvious Bicycle’ to the Talking Heads stomp of ‘Everlasting Arms’, it all seems like that rare thing these days, an album designed to be listened to from start to finish.

This is not to say the album is perfect. Mid album, the songs turn their attention to religion in double bill ‘Worship You’ and ‘Ya Hey’. ‘Ya Hey’ works better purely for not only referencing God but also Outkast’s classic ‘Hey Ya’. ‘Worship You’ seems a little too frenetic to be enjoyable and almost tires out the tracks that follow. The last tracks are ‘Hudson’, a dark and derelict slice of electronica and ‘Young Lion’, a low-key vocals and piano lament. Between them, they are like nothing else on the album yet they send it out perfectly. This is a band who has worked out who they want to be and don’t want to be pigeon-holed by one sound.

This is their best album so far but I would predict that their best is yet to come.