Dominating the year-end lists back in 2013 with universal acclaim, “Modern Vampires Of The City” is the third album of the American indie band Vampire Weekend. Clearly being more melodic and somber in sound, it’s probably the band’s most accessible album from their equally recommendable discography, and in my humble opinion their absolute best.
If you’ve even briefly heard any of Vampire Weekend’s music, it’s not difficult to point them back out any other time you hear their songs. It’s that preppy, percussive tone, that made them one of the most unique and noticed indie bands back in their launch in 2007. As they move away from the explosive rock sound, into the more pop-influenced one that they have in the 2013 album, the uniqueness stays untouched. From “Unbelievers”, the amazingly thoughtful and witty song about where we and our beliefs stand in this world, or whether they actually matter, to “Diane Young”, the fun swing-filled uptempo of the album, there’s always unique hooks hiding behind every line of melody. Even the piano hook of the 90-second “Young Lion” is catchy enough for a solo of its own for a third of the song. Its disciplined yet dirty style, accompanied with lead single Ezra Koenig’s lively singing (he’s in the credits of Bey’s Hold Up!), was what made every song in the album so memorable.
Knowing the band and the things they’ve come up with in their first two albums, their fans would go into absolute outrage if this album was just mainstream pop, wouldn’t they? Looking at the tracks, pop is just a little dot of the genres that they’ve covered. “Step” and “Don’t Lie” contains timeless Baroque influences with harpsichords and classical strings, which funnily makes both tracks sound incredibly British. “Worship You” is a full-on folk tune, a direct message to God with lyrics too fast to follow. Having said that, “Hannah Hunt” is the most poppy song on the album, yet the biggest highlight. Stripped down production, simple storytelling in the lyrics about the quick passing of time, and the godly spacious explosion in the instrumental break. The drumbeat in the back, and the beautiful melody played by piano at the top – nothing can sound more satisfying than that.
Lyrically, “Modern Vampires Of The City” is a deep, dark album contrasting the happy instrumentals in major key. As themes like time, religion, death reappear again and again in the album, each song can leave you thinking for hours. “Everlasting Arms”, a song that seems like it’s about a love relationship on first sight (“Oh I was made to live without you, but I’m never gonna understand”), can be twisted into a question of all-loving God, as Koenig sings “If you’d been made to serve a master, you’d be frightened by the open hand”, a suggestion that guidance from any higher power may have to be traded by perhaps his free will. But that’s too much for thought all at once, drowning your head inside all these melodies is enough work.
When you casually listen to “Modern Vampires Of The City”, you’ll find the catchy pop hooks and melodies that’ll stay in our head for a good while. Dive in a bit deeper, and you’ll see how carefully they’ve pieced every song together, to how they sound unique and cohesive at once. At the end, looking at the lyrics provides all the more complex deep meanings that every song’s got, interpreted in any way possible. You might need to sit down a bit for the final stage. At the end of the day, a fanfastic 43 minutes of your precious time.
Favourites – Hannah Hunt, Unbelievers, Diane Young