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'Modern Vampires of the City' an experimental success

Courtesy photo
Indie rock quartet Vampire Weekend released its third album, the experimental "Modern Vampires of the City" on May 14.

By Nick Ransbottom, Home Study

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --  Being new to Vampire Weekend, I can't say whether the band achieved the change in its sound that it hoped to with its latest album, "Modern Vampires of the City." However, I can say "Modern Vampires of the City" is one of the best albums I've heard all year.

This is largely because it's a completely experimental album. It reminds me very much of The Beatles, particularly "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," which has influenced a plethora of bands since its release. One of the things separating Vampire Weekend from other bands, though, is that its "Sgt. Pepper"-influenced album is actually good.

There is a lot of ambiguity in the lyrics. After talking to fellow friends and fans, we've all interpreted the meanings of the song, and the album as a whole, differently.

That's a triumph, I think, when a band creates an album that means different things to different people. Then again, I won't deny that all of us could be idiots who have missed the point of the album completely.

Ezra Koenig's lyrics make great use of homophonic wordplay throughout the album. The most obvious example is the track "Diane Young," with its chorus of "If Diane Young won't change your mind/Baby, baby, baby, baby, right on time." The phrase "Diane Young" is a play on "dyin' young" and also arguably a symbolic metaphor for the song's message.

There's a lot of lyrical wit throughout "Modern Vampires of the City," as Koenig waxes poetically about themes like maturity and death. Behind its pitch-altered vocals and sometimes positively upbeat rhythms, the stories the album tells can be grim.

"Hudson," in particular, is a bleak track. "Over and over again, all these neverending visions/Over and over again, like a prize that's changing hands/The time has come/The clock is such a drag/All you who change your stripes can wrap me in the flag," Koenig sings in a voice that's as comforting as it is seductive.

The choir-like "oohs" that are sprinkled throughout "Hudson" make it a haunting track, a brilliant example of baroque pop. It's the standout track for me.

Some of the songs are extremely jarring, such as "Step," which is extremely synthetic and psychedelic, yet features such lulling vocals and smartly crafted lyrics by Koenig that you can't help but to be enthralled by it.

Each track of the album tries something different. For example, "Finger Back" features a more typical rock sound with lightning fast vocals, while "Unbelievers" is Springsteen-esque and reminiscent of Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young."

I spent a long time trying to pinpoint exactly why I like the album as much as I do and trying to put my finger on exactly why it sounded so special before I ended up realizing the only reason the album is so good is simply because it's good.

It's smartly crafted and something different, which is an absolute godsend in today's music world. Be careful, though, fellow Vampire Weekend newcomers: you're likely to become obsessed with the band after listening.


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