Artist: Vampire Weekend
Release date: 2010
Favorite track: “Horchata”
In this past week’s Off the Record column, I wrote about Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut album. For part two, I will write about the band’s sophomore album, “Contra.”
Why all the Vampire Weekend you ask? No. 1, because it’s fall, and I always listen to this band in the fall. No. 2, because it’s almost Halloween, and this band has the word “vampire” in its name.
It’s appropriate on all counts. Pun intended.
What I like about the band is how it creates songs with so many layers of instrumentation, sounds and vocals. I hate overusing the word “dynamic,” but Vampire Weekend truly defines it.
My ranking of Vampire Weekend’s albums goes in the reverse order in which they were released, with their third album — “Modern Vampires of the City” — being my favorite. This is a close second.
I mention my ranking, because I think the band’s growth over time is so easily identifiable. Vampire Weekend hasn’t released an album since 2013, which also indicates the band doesn’t push out albums for the sake of doing it.
“Contra” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
The opening track, “Horchata,” is a lovely, fascinating introduction to the direction Vampire Weekend headed in after its debut.
It’s a lighthearted electronic sound complemented with string instruments, detailed lyrics and frontman Ezra Keonig’s boyish vocals.
The digital xylophone sounds make this song sound truly inspired.
In December, drinking horchata
Look down your glasses at that Aranciata
With lips and teeth to ask how my day went
Boots and fists to pound on the pavement
“White Sky” follows up with an even more peppy sound and the same use of digital effects. It’s the perfect answer to those who heard “Horchata,” and said, “I want more of that.”
“Holiday” is a throwback to the beach-y sound heard in many of the songs on “Vampire Weekend.” I don’t feel as connected to “Holiday” and “California English.” I have the same problem with these tracks as I do with “Finger Back” on Vampire Weekend’s third album.
I don’t enjoy vocals that sound highly altered, or the overly sped up pace. The songs are certainly interesting, but not pleasurable.
Don’t take this criticism to mean I don’t like this album … or do. I don’t like this album. I love it.
“Taxi Cab” drives this album back in the direction I crave. The vocals are so subtle and the music is so sweet, the song sounds downright enchanted. Not to mention, I’ve always been fond of the band’s use of vocabulary in the lyrics.
Vampire Weekend has a penchant for indie pop-rock with a magical twist.
In the shadow of your first attack
I was questioning and looking back
You said, “Baby, we don’t speak of that”
Like a real aristocrat
— “Taxi Cab”
“Cousins” is the edgiest. It’s a little punk rock and not completely my style, but I think it gives the record much needed diversity.
“Giving Up the Gun” and “Diplomat’s Son” seamlessly blend the pop, beach and rock elements.
“I Think Ur a Contra” is the slowest, softest song. Contra is a prefix, meaning against or the opposite of.
It’s an interesting album title and an interesting notion.
There was lot of fuss about this album cover.
The identity of the blonde girl in the Ralph Lauren Polo shirt depicted on the cover was unknown at first. It was later discovered to be Ann Kirsten Kennis, who filed a $2 million lawsuit against the band, its label and the photographer for using and profiting from the photo without permission.
There is much speculation about how Vampire Weekend accessed the photo and who originally took it. Kennis, a former fashion model, saw it for the first time when her daughter came across a Barnes & Noble banner ad for the record, according to Vanity Fair.
While I don’t condone theft, I do love this album cover. I think I must be drawn to the same qualities about the photo as Vampire Weekend members were when they saw it.
Kennis’ expression is difficult to read. Upon first look, seems surprised. Later, I thought she looked a little scared. Sometimes I think she looks mad.
It’s as puzzling as the Mona Lisa.
After it was first released, the album was so popular, she was deemed indie rock’s biggest mystery girl of the time. It all seemed like a cool enigma until lawyers got involved.