Everyone began salivating when news of a new Vampire Weekend hit the streets, but as the leaks of the singles came, people began to feel a bit uneasy as we neared the release of Contra. Sadly, the feelings of unease have not been quelled, as this record, despite wanting to be great, is nothing more than a mediocre rendition of the last.
Opening with “Horchata” seems logical, as you take one of the catchier numbers (and yes, it IS one of the catchiest) from the album, and put it up front. It makes complete sense, but it sets up the rest of the album for a bit of a lackluster performance. You get a lot of the same tinkering in this song too with non-traditional percussive elements–a sign that this album isn’t progressing too far.
So you find yourself sort of immersed emotionally in this album, and you hit upon “Holiday.” It replicates some of the energy that we discovered with “A-Punk,” yet not enough that one could really call it a standout track, like you could with the aformentioned “A-Punk.” Ezra’s voice at this point does seem really solid–in case you’re looking for positives.
Then you breeze through the rest of the album, fast-forwarding til you hit the slow-mover that is “Taxi Cab.” It’s really difficult to move beyond the banality that is this song; it’s the most bland piece of music I’ve come across in the last few months. It sounds like they wanted to create a touch of Enlightenment piano work atop their summery pop. But, a few repeat listens of this song will open your eyes to the strongest moments on the album, this song leading into that moment.
And you finally arrive at the one-two punch that is “Run” and “Cousins.” Okay, so the beat on “Run” sounds too familiar to early Vampire Weekend efforts, but Ezra’s voice sounds much more influential at this point, coming off as one of his stronger vocal performances on the record. The brother song, “Cousins” is probably most reminiscent of the high-octane fun that you found in “A-Punk.” It’s hard to get beyond the yelping, but if you can put that aside, you’ll find Contra‘s strongest moments yet. It’s catchy, and yet not too stylistically repetitive.
But, as the album winds out, everything is lost. You’ll find some beats that will surely propel the band to SPIN glory, but you won’t really find too many other moments in the remaining songs that you’ll want to put on over and over again. “Diplomat’s Son” finds Ezra trying his best to sing a nice little Hawaiian ballad a la Iz, but it’s not enough to sustain listeners. Seriously bro, stop singing, and get to rocking. That all leads to the band’s misstep on the record.
Listening to Contra repeated times is sure to wear listeners down. The redundancy in the sonic appeal gradually fades as you go from song to song, and what once seemed interesting, just isn’t. Listeners, despite their best intentions, will surely come to the realization that whilst they wanted the best for Vampire Weekend, their needs just weren’t fulfilled. You’ll be left wondering why you spent your money on a record that you can easily forget the moment its over.
Download: Vampire Weekend – Horchata [MP3]