Tracks Monkeys With Lasers

New Album Reviews – Vampire Weekend and Los Campesinos!
February 9, 2010, 9:06 pm
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Vampire Weekend – Contra

It seems much longer ago than two years ago that Vampire Weekend emerged onto the music scene with the release of their self-titled debut album which got a lot of attention in the media with their African influenced indie pop sound. “A-Punk” and “Oxford Comma” helped soundtrack the summer of that year with the band playing a whole host of festivals and shows. Since then, they had very much slipped off of my musical radar and their album had had very little attention so I was almost surprised to hear that this album was out at the beginning of this year.

The first thing I noticed when listening to the album was that it had a much deeper (with regards to pitch rather than depth of the sound) and how much mature it sounded with the percussion and bass seeming to be at the forefront of their sound even more.

Contra opens with two rather mellow songs that perfectly demonstrate how their sound has evolved but still very much has the Vampire Weekend feel to it; the opening track “Horchata” containing drumming that encapsulates part of their sound and the following track “White Sky” containing the falsetto, nonsensical vocals that brings back feelings of their first album.

The rest of the album keeps up the more mature and slightly more mellow feel with some of the song intros being deceptively bouncy, such as “Holiday” and “Run”, but they mostly go back to the same plodding feel that the album seems to have. That all sounds a bit negative but it’s not meant to be; I really like the album. I think it may be due to the fact that keyboards have seemingly taken on a much more prominent role in the overall creation of this album compared to the guitars that were previously at the fore which has taken away some of the boisterous feeling from before.

“Cousins” seems an odd choice for the first single off the album to me as it feels a little out of place with the rest of the songs and it feels a little bit awkward as though it is trying to act as the bridge between the two albums. For me the best song off the album is undoubtedly “Giving Up The Gun” with it’s pulsing synth bassline, simple vocals and the well constructed percussion that keeps the whole song going.

Overall, I quite like the album and the shift of sound that the band have gone for. The album has held my attention well since I first got it but the songs do get a little samey for me and can feel a little downbeat at times.

4/5 horse riding monkeys

Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring

Sporting one of the more ‘interesting’ album covers of the last few months, “Romance Is Boring” is the third offering from Los Campesinos! following the release of both of their first two albums back in 2008. LC are second only to Frank Turner for total number of plays on my thanks to their fantastic debut album which has had so many listens that I’m surprised the files haven’t burnt themselves out on my ipod. However, I was very underwhelmed with their second album which felt a little rush and seemed to lack the energy and fun factor that “Hold On Now Youngster” had that kept me coming back to it so often.

This album has taken me a little bit of time to get into as it seems to fall between these two albums with regards to it’s sound. It still has some of the upbeat indie pop tunes that made me love the first album so much, such as “There Are Listed Buildings” and “This Is A Flag. There Is No Wind”, but it has a little bit more of a grownup sound around it like “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed” had but it feels a lot more complete this time round.

I’m being pretty vague I know but I can’t quite put my finger on what I like about it more than “WAB, WAD” (what a great acronym) but I also get the feeling that I may have been a bit harsh on that album in hindsight. That all said, I do think this is a better overall album and a bit of a return to form as there are plenty of tracks I really like including the title track and, my possible favourite “We’ve got Your Back” with the line “I’ve learnt more from toilet walls than I’ve learnt from these words of yours” which helps show that the band’s obscure but brilliant lyrics are still in place.

A couple of tracks don’t work for me, such as “Plan A” which I just can’t listen to, but there are other songs that lean towards another sound of theirs which I really like. The song that most comes to mind being “The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future” and this is a sound I’d like to hear more of from them.

Altogether, I think this album is an improvement over their previous one but sounds much closer to that than their debut album. However, there are a number of songs on the album that hint at another sound of theirs that I look forward to seeing them build on while still producing some top quality indie pop.

Oh, and does anyone else think the end of “Straight In At 101” is a real ripoff of the Superman Revenge Squad sound?

4/5 arty monkeys

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