Surprise! (Or not — who isn’t putting their album up on iTunes the week before physical release date lately?)
New York’s prep-rock royals Vampire Weekend are the latest to join the digital prerelease party today with a stream of their third studio album, Modern Vampires of the City. Below, an expanded version of the review from EW‘s issue out this Friday.
Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City (XL)
Let’s be real: A lot of you have already made up your minds about this band. Four fresh-faced Ivy League grads in boat shoes peddling Paul Simon-y songs with titles like “Oxford Comma” and “Diplomat’s Son”? Pfft. But even the most determined pffters, the holdouts who’ve spent the past five years ardently ducking the New York quartet’s slier-than-thou Benetton pop, will have a pretty damn hard time resisting this one.
This isn’t to say that Vampire Weekend’s third effort is a wild departure from their first two. Modern Vampires is still rife with all the sunny-day hooks, East Coast imagery, and blueblood signifiers you’ve come to expect. (Sample lyrics: “You got the luck of a Kennedy,” “Hannah tore the New York Times up into pieces.”) This time, though, the band spends less time admiring their own clever lines and throwaway quips. A new kind of focus is evident here, and the result is twelve tightly plotted, fully realized songs that share a common thread.
Even the geography is tighter. Never landlocked, Vampire Weekend sent postcards from Cape Cod, California, and beyond on their previous albums, but Modern Vampires is all but tethered to New York. Even when song characters manage to drift elsewhere, they seem to yearn for home. The stable sense of setting works in the band’s favor, freeing frontman Ezra Koenig up to explore deeper, more universal themes — like mortal anxiety. “Wisdom’s a gift but you trade it for youth/Age is an honor — it’s still not the truth,” he croons on “Step,” while on “Don’t Lie,” he warns all the young Turks,“There’s a headstone right in front of you, and everyone I know.” Looks like that pun at the heart of lead single “Diane Young” isn’t there just to be clever.
Of course, you don’t have to care about Koenig’s quarterlife crisis and poeticized NYC life; Lena Dunham’s might be enough for you. (Tellingly, the two are friends; Koenig recently made a cameo on Girls.) As with their previous albums, Vampire Weekend’s elegant under-the-chandelier pop and upper-crust punk rave-ups still provide subtext-free sonic pleasures all on their own.
But when everything here lines up the right way — and more often than not, it does — Modern Vampires is the perfect album for the coming Atlantic summer. Think of it like saltwater taffy: bright and sweet, with plenty to chew on.
Best Tracks: “Unbelievers” • “Don’t Lie”
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