Vampire Weekend: Contra

RIYL: Talking Heads, Paul Simon’s Graceland, pissing off hipsters

Hype giveth, and the backlash taketh away: Two years after being heralded as conquering indie kings by the blogosphere elite, Vampire Weekend releases its sophomore effort, Contra, amidst a hail of hipster boos. But wait, here’s the best part: All the stuff that seems to piss people off about the band – specifically, that they look like kids that wandered off their parents’ Hamptons estates, and sound like late-period Talking Heads crossed with Paul Simon’s Graceland album – is exactly what drew people to Vampire Weekend to begin with. They haven’t changed, and they haven’t been around long enough for tastes to change much, either – so what gives? We’ll let you draw your own conclusions (our theory has to do with the word “baa”), but no matter the reasons for the backlash, Vampire Weekend has managed to tune out the catcalls long enough to deliver a sophomore album strong enough to satisfy everyone who hasn’t pre-emptively left their flock. As far as second efforts go, Contra is actually pretty ideal; it isn’t exactly a carbon copy of the first album, but it doesn’t stray far enough to leave fans feeling betrayed. This seems to be a case of a band that knows its strengths – namely, crafting deeply derivative, intoxicatingly lightweight pop songs with a faint world-music bent – and is smart enough not to dick around with anything too far outside its wheelhouse. Not ambitious enough to earn high marks from the Pitchfork crowd, in other words, but on the other hand, it really is plenty of fun — Contra is the kind of record that doesn’t want to do much besides make it hard for you to sit still, and it succeeds. Could you ask for more? Sure, but albums this charmingly frothy make it hard to complain. (XL Records 2010)

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