Modern Vampires of the City is Vampire Weekend’s 3rd studio album, marking their return to the airwaves after a 3-year wait.
The album begins with a somber track, “Obvious Bicycle,” which sounds exactly what you’d expect this album to sound like if you didn’t know who Vampire Weekend was and all you knew of them was this album cover. It’s a bit soft, a bit emotional, and feels as if it’s drenched in nostalgia you can’t help but empathy for. “Unbelievers” sounds more like vintage Vampire Weekend, Koenig’s voice fronting a constant thumping of the drums that’s followed by a barrage of guitars and keyboards, all building up to an instrumental refrain. While the music sounds like a cool jam session, the lyrics paint a picture of what it’s like to feel overwhelmingly uncertain about the world around you. Koenig sings in the bridge “Girl, you and I will die unbelievers, bound to the tracks of the train” and “I’m not excited, but should I be? Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me?” which is a feeling we’ve all at some point stopped ourselves and recognized.
It all slows down again with “Step,” as “the Vamps” employ yet another catchy beat thanks to a simple beating drum and its use of harpsichords. However, while it’s filled with plenty of standout quirks (particularly the harpsichords and Koenig’s “I feel it in my bones”) it sounds like its overstretched and the brief use of a voice manipulator at the end was a bit unnecessary. “Diane Young” makes a much better use of the voice manipulator in a song that will surely be a hit at live performances for years to come. It’s got a 50’s Rock & Roll spirit to it (song structure, clapping, and generous use of the word “baby”) with a modern twist (gunshot-sounding drums and the manipulator). It also brings to mind a slightly-Pop-y-er version of Arcade Fire’s “Month Of May.”
“Don’t Lie” starts with an organ part that feels a bit out of place, but once that’s gone it feels like a completely different song. The track is anthemic in nature with an excellent line that first says “there’s a headstone right in front of you and everyone I know” and then switches to “there’s a lifetime right in front of you…” which helps show how changing one little word shows two different perspectives on life. The soft track, “Hannah Hunt” also features the same elements seen throughout the album for song structure, starting off slowly and building up to a loud instrumental refrain before fading out.
“Everlasting Arms” removes the band’s signature distortion-free guitars and opts for a “rhythm section”-heavy production. It starts out with a string arrangement, which leads to a keyboard-laden . This is one of those songs that you would go back and listen to again to hear what other instrument you hear in the background. “Finger Back” is the sort of quirky, fast Indie Pop hope to hear on a VW track and Koenig even makes use of his decent falsetto chops for the vocal part. Think of this song as the soundtrack for happy moshing.
“Ya Hey” is a damn good song. The keyboards and bass line score it perfectly as Koenig sings “Oh the motherland don’t love you, the fatherland don’t love you, so why love anything?” and yet the subject of the song somehow finds a way to show love when the whole world is against her. It’s a bit dark and gloomy (sort of like the album cover) but you can also feel a sense of hope rising among the madness.
“Hudson” is dark and eerie, with a drum line that brings to mind a march of war. It’s a decent track, but definitely a “deep cut” sort of song, more “B-Side” than “single.” “Young Lion” is sweet, makes a great use of the harpsichord.
Key Tracks: “Unbelievers,” “Diane Young,” “Everlasting Arms,” “Hannah Hunt,” “Ya Hey”