Vampire Weekend’s “Contra” is sure to be the feel-good hit of the winter for 2010. Just like their self-titled debut, Vampire Weekend’s new record makes you want to get up and dance, no matter what they’re singing about. “Contra” delivers on the promises of their first record and adds polish that the previous effort missed. The band has managed to expand its talent and find more texture in its songs without losing their spontaneous feel.
On first listen, “Contra” is the twin of Vampire Weekend’s first record, offering nothing beyond the band’s familiar Afro beat-inspired songs about affluent kids from New York. The second and third listen is where you really start to appreciate what the new album has accomplished.
Though the band has not forgotten its roots in the Upper West Side, it has embraced a deeper range of emotion than the unrelenting peppiness of the first album. “Diplomat’s Son,” despite its positive beat and infectious vocal hook, is downright melancholy. It’s a weird contrast, considering the song wouldn’t be out of place at a party. “Giving Up the Gun” is a similar song, with self-reflective lyrics attached to an infectious fast-paced pop song.
The only thing I don’t like about the record is the same thing I don’t like about the band itself: they’re four rich white boys from New York. The band members all met in their senior year at Columbia University and before Vampire Weekend took off, held down cushy jobs in the city. If you let that bother you, though, you’re missing the point. This is a great pop record.