The sophomore slump is something that hits everyone from singers and musicians to college students. It’s usually unavoidable and accepted as a fact of life and art: a band’s second album probably won’t be as good as its first. Vampire Weekend, however, avoids that fate with “Contra,” its upbeat second album.
On this album, Vampire Weekend’s sound mirrors the background of the band whose members met as students at Columbia University. It’s a little yuppie and a little preppy, a fascinating mixture of pop, reggae and ska.
Vampire Weekend is a band with a passionate fan base but also vocal detractors. The very things that incited such ire, like their attempts at lyrical eccentricity, are back in full form on “Contra” whose first song, “Horchata,” rhymes “balaclava” with “Masada.” “Giving Up the Gun” is Contra’s most accessible song, and “Cousins” and “Diplomat’s Son” evoke Arctic Monkeys and M.I.A., respectively. On first listen, there aren’t any standout songs like their self-titled debut’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” or “A-Punk,” but “Contra” is also more even overall.
“Contra” is for the fan who wants to be a music snob but lacks the sophistication to do so. It is accessible to the masses, yet not as “out there” as the albums by some of Vampire Weekend’s counterparts in indie rock.
Sarah B. Pilchick may be contacted at email@example.com.
Rating: 3/4 stars
Release Date: Jan. 12
Producer: Rostam Batmanglij
Label: XL Recordings