The Spinners

Contra (Vampire Weekend, 2010)

In American, Indie Rock, Megan Diño, Rex Baylon, Richard Bolisay on January 27, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Contra is a strong statement of Vampire Weekend’s style: a happy and heady concoction of guitars, infectious beats, synthetic pulses, familiar samples, string instruments, and heartbreaking cooing. It’s as if Ezra Koenig, his cherub locks (they are a separate entity), and the rest of the band declare in a falsetto voice, “This is our sound, aaah, oooh, fuck yeah!” As they sing in “Taxi Cab”, they really are sure of it now. In Filipino, walang kokontra.

Walang kokontra, indeed.

Listening to this sophomore shebang is like running away from something, perhaps in boat shoes and definitely away from the bad vibes. “White Sky”, “Holiday”, and “California English” carry excited cadences, but this is most evident in “Cousins”, a song whose asinine lyrics I really have no intention of understanding. Its giddy, c’mon-let’s-do-this-let’s-do-this-now tempo is best enjoyed as it is.

And just like when you’re running, there are times when your pace slows down. You don’t stop; the movement continues. You catch your breath, maybe welcome a little pensiveness, nostalgia even, as you feel while listening to “Taxi Cab” and “I Think Ur A Contra”.

Finally, after all the scurrying, a realization in the finish line: Contra clearly is the music lover’s equivalent of a runner’s high, euphoric and definitely addictive. Just like any of those drugs you take.

– Megan Diño

The “Upper West Side Soweto” sound that Vampire Weekend have laid claim to since their debut in 2008 has garnered them a lot of attention. Their quick rise to fame has allowed many to compare them to previous “of-the-moment” bands like The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys, leading them to believe that Vampire Weekend’s novel sound is a gimmick that has a finite shelf life. Many bands in their situation would be crippled by the expectations leveled by fans and detractors alike—and would have bided their time till the hype died down to release their second album—but thankfully, Vampire Weekend chose a different path and went on to release one of the best albums of 2010.

As far as sophomore album releases go, the band opts not to abandon what has made them so popular in the first place. Instead of reinventing the wheel musically or trying to pander to middle brow tastes as a pathetic bid to stay in the spotlight, they still have the confidence to stick to their guns and build on the sound they have been cultivating since their self-titled debut.

Contra is a logical progression of their previous work, but that’s not to say that the songs are derivative or lacking melodic inventiveness. On the contrary, the sound is recognizably Vampire Weekend’s, but their musical palette has widened enough to include European and Caribbean flavors alongside the African inspired rhythms they usually play. A track like “Cousins” has the same sort of scholastic pretensions that “Oxford Comma” or “A-Punk” are guilty of, but you can tell from Ezra Koenig’s vocals that the band has more to offer than just esoteric guitar riffs. And with songs like “Horchata” and “California English” you can hear the influence of The Police and Paul Simon being fused with harmonies to create a distinct sound.

As a whole, this sophomore release is more energetic and assured than their debut. It is a testament to the band’s melodic sensibility that the songs aren’t just danceable. They prove that their music is not only melodically inventive but commercially viable as well.

– Rex Baylon

Oh Megan and Rex, my homeys, don’t disown our friendship but Contra just didn’t work for me. The melodies I am relying on as far as Vampire Weekend are concerned are lacking; my body’s itching to dance but it just can’t! I haven’t bothered to know the lyrics because my own way of singing along is dancing (and of course with Vampire Weekend there’s no such thing as “lyrics”) and “Cousins” is the only track in it that can do so. Am I aging too fast? Or should I wait for the third album to break the tie?

– Richard Bolisay

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