The entirety of Vampire Weekend’s third studio album seems to reflect a newly acquired self-awareness that, though evident on its previous records, stands strong and up front on “Modern Vampires of the City,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts this week.
While the songs are less catchy on “Modern Vampires” than on past records, such as 2010’s dance-heavy “Contra,” the subject matter is much more grown up, with adult undertones adding to the general ambiance of the record.
Vampire Weekend appears to have abandoned its world music influences, replacing instruments such as the marimba and steel drum with more conventional Western pop instruments.
The band’s affinity for using oversaturated and obvious auto-tune and vocal effects has resurfaced with a vengeance on this record suggesting a more — as the title reveals — modern sound.
The record’s strength as a medium for storytelling is evident in its beautifully slow-moving songs, such as “Hannah Hunt.” The lyrics draw the listener into a nostalgic American fairytale, as lead singer Ezra Koenig sings with minimal musical background, “A man of faith said hidden eyes could see what I was thinking / I just smiled and told him that was only true of Hannah / and we glided on through Waverly and Lincoln.”
After his slow litany the music picks up, and so does his voice. Vampire Weekend has always been honest lyrically, but never so heartbreaking as on this track. The lyrics usher in a layered feeling of a long relationship deteriorating despite efforts to combat an end.
Faith and religion serve as a foundation of the record’s message — or maybe a lack thereof. With at least four song titles alluding to religion, such as “Everlasting Arms” and “Unbelievers,” and lyrics that suggest a sense of betrayal concerning religion, the audience is left with questions and indisputable answers.
A few standout tracks come near the end of the record. “Ya Hey” is a scathing denouncement of God with obvious Biblical allusions. “Worship You” is apseudo-political song with a bit of a Middle Eastern feel is complete with a woman chanting in the background and an electric organ accompaniment.
Though the track “Hudson” is gorgeous and interesting, it feels out of place and a bit over-reaching, with derisive attacks on early New York City greed and war. “Obvious Bicycle” and “Young Lion” missed the mark and didn’t seem to flow with the album, but Vampire Weekend has a history of putting the songs that draw in the listeners in the middle, leaving the beginning and ending of the album with much to be desired.
Overall, “Modern Vampires of the City” delivers and shows real growth through its political and personal lyrics. New fans and old ones alike will not bedisappointed.