Highly anticipated is an understatement for the release of Vampire Weekend's third studio album, released May 14. The 12 track collection explores different themes of wisdom and mortality while incorporating specific musical details that build off the band's original sound while taking a mature direction in their compositions.
The band's last album, "Contra," released Jan. of 2010, received critical acclaim at the time but pales in comparison to "Modern Vampires In The City." Their use of pop and synth was creative and clever in "Contra," but muddled the acoustic foundations and made the piece more of a collection of singles rather than a full album. "Modern Vampires" still plays with technology but stays limited to choruses and bridges, allowing songs to completely capture and emphasize the album's overall themes of the inevitability of death and the struggles of affection.
"Step" and "Diane Young" are the first singles off "Modern Vampires," featured as a double release on the band's Youtube account in the form of lyric videos. The songs juxtaposed debut was initially ironic due to the two songs completely different natures. "Step," a much slower, softer-sounding harmony in no way mirrors "Diane Young" and its fast-paced, manipulation of pitches, yet the two songs gave fans a formal introduction to the bands more developed sound. Both songs act as a continuation of the unique qualities that make Vampire Weekend the band that indie music fans love, but contain a new, softer base that has been neglected in their previous works.
When examining the lyrics of each song, it's apparent where these four New York natives get their musical influence. Following the lyrical footsteps of fellow New Yorkers Simon & Garfunkel, Ezra Koenig and Rostam Batmanglij, lead singer/guitarist and keyboardist/guitarist/backup vocals respectively, wrote the majority of the lyrics in a poetic, literary-appealing way. Their verses feature metaphors and alliteration, like in the song "Step" where Koenig croons, "snow falling slow to the sound of the master." These quirky uses of literary characteristics make their lyrics more like poetry, where listeners can pull apart certain lines and discover the genius that lies within the music.
Whether the album was developed with the intent to please already fans or create new ones, it does not matter. Any fan of music would be intrigued by the profound commentary on the themes that are echoed throughout the track list. Most music, if not all, revolves around love: what is love and how does one find it? What makes Vampire Weekend's analysis different is the way they express it; not plainly or restricted, yet with an open interpretation that anyone can advocate for. As seen in the song "Finger back," Keonig croons "Everybody wants you, but baby you are mine / And baby you're not anybody's fool." Additionally, "Step" provides for an interesting perspective on years passing by, "wisdom's a gift but you trade it for youth / age is an honor, it's still not the truth." Both these lyrics can mean different things to different people, but neither can be called invalid or irrelevant.
Stand out pieces on the album include "Don't Lie," the only ballad like song among all twelve. A small collection of string instruments accompany an old-fashioned piano while Koenig's sings over a wide range. This song exemplifies the new direction Vampire Weekend aimed for, where they artfully deconstructed what could've been an obnoxious tune to a harmonious melody. "Ya Hey," released as the second single off the album, is sure to resonate with "Contra" fans. The experimental tune keeps a steady beat even with the use of pitch variations and quirky microphone manipulations.
Closing the album is a barely two-minute song entitled "Young Lion." With only one line, "You take your time, young lion," the song itself is not extremely complex, but creates an aura of safety, almost as if it were extinguishing the fire and flames that the album created. This type of song most frequents introductions to albums as the first song heard, but the placement of this tune at the finality of the album acts as a closing sequence to a great film or the falling action to a great novel.
In many ways, "Young Lion" sums up Vampire Weekend's whole experience with this album. "Take your time" could easily be referring to the two plus years it took the four members to produce this album. "Young Lion" could allude to the fact that these twenty-somethings still have the strength and potential to make something great. But in the end, with lyric dissection aside, "Modern Vampires of the City" showcases all that great artists in this day and age can be: entertaining and experimental.