Friday, January 15, 2010

Quick reaction to Vampire Weekend's Contra

I love it. Quick enough for you? But seriously, I thought I'd enjoy Contra but didn't think I'd listen to it essentially nonstop for a week. (When was the last time I did that with a new album?) I think there's a quality to Vampire Weekend which isn't complicated but gets overlooked in discussions of their music: These guys are happy. Yes, you might say, they're four young, good-looking, New York Ivy Leaguers.Who wouldn't be happy in that situation? It's obvious in songs like "Holiday" but even "White Sky" (my favorite track so far) has a New York in winter, it's exhausting-but-exhilarating feeling to it that I can't quite compare to anything else. I think happiness is a quality missing from the bands we tend to obsess over on music blogs and in reviews, with the possible exception of Animal Collective. (I'm looking at you Grizzly Bear, Arcade Fire, and yes even Wilco) This blog post is starting to sound like something Wayne Dyer might write, so I'll finish this point by saying that I think certain circles (myself included) tend to equate joy in a rock band with a lack of seriousness, but Contra is good enough to overcome the doubters.

With the exception of a couple of tracks ("Holiday" and "California English") I don't really get the "West Coast" feeling that people are talking about with Contra, but there is the beginning of a strain of emotional directness that could yield great future results. ("Taxi Cab" and "I Think UR a Contra") All of Ezra Koening's weird shrieking ("White Sky") and mid-song reggae bridges ("Diplomat's Son") don't feel like affectation but rather like the product of a band that is perfectly content to be the sum of some very interesting parts and cares very little what anyone thinks of them. The confidence and charm of Contra are a surprise midwinter pleasure, as is the knowledge that these guys are going to have a career.

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