Modern Vampires Of The City
When it comes to album reviews, one of the adjectives I loathe most is the word mature. “It’s a mature release from this once playful band…”. I can hear the critic say the word in my head and it makes me gag a bit: “MAT-TURE, MAT-TURE, MAT-TURE,”.
I think a better word is confident, for these types of albums, don’t you? It’s much more appealing than that other one. Mature brings up all sorts of negative connotations, like boring, or staid, or your granddad. When I think of music that’s mature I think of Classical, or Jazz, or Lawrence Welk. OK, Larry W. was just plain bad. Let’s strike him from this conversation and our collective memories forever lest we all commit mass polkacide.
Vampire Weekend, and in particular the new record Modern Vampires Of The City, is what I would consider a confident release by this band I had no interest in prior to one week ago yesterday. The words I most associated with Vampire Weekend, prior to one week ago yesterday, were: “playful”, “world beat”, “conga”, “pretentious”, “goofy”, “hip”. Not my bag, baby. The name didn’t help either. It seemed a pretty obvious attempt to cash in on the teen vampire craze of the recent past, and thus delving into this particular group was not a priority for me at all. I have had lots of online folks who I trust recommend this band to me, citing a musicality and pop chops that were pretty much unrivaled and true in this Autotune world we now live in. I remained nonchalant, though, about Vampire Weekend.
I am and shall always remain, a creature of habit and I must now admit the fact that I still read album reviews online, and while I am not nearly as gullible as I once was to critical praise I am occasionally affected/infected by it. Money for music (hey, that sounds like a Nick Lowe song!) is now arare thing in my household, so if I am going to take a chance on an album it’ll be a once in a great while thing, and I’ll certainly do my homework prior to making the investment. And, even though it may only cost $9.99 it is still an investment in my book; maybe more of an emotional one, but an investment nonetheless.
This album is really good. It’s one of the best of the year, so far. What does that mean, however, in a year filled with dashed hopes and sub-par releases? It means that this album in an above average year (like 2012) would probably make the top 20 but would most likely be #8 or so. Modern Vampires Of The City is a solid 8/10, in my book. There are plenty of great unique pop hooks, and chock full of above average musicianship throughout. It is only when they venture into Arcade Fire territory those things start to get a bit dodgy. I am not a fan of over emotive singers, like that tall dude in Arcade Fire. They sound like they’re trying too hard to be earnest, or precious, and end up sounding more than a little silly, and at worst pretentious. On MVOTC, the worst offender is Everlasting Arms, which sounds like a Paul Simon soundtrack number circa 1984. Other than that little blip, this is a totally engaging, very satisfying album and I am glad they made it.
Album of the year material? For many music magazines, online and otherwise, I’ll guess the odds are in their favor. For me, though, it may make the top 10, maybe even the top 5. We’ll just have to see what kind of legs this thing has. For now, for this year, a really good album is good enough.
Oh, and by the by, this is hands down the best album cover of the last 5 years. Stunning!