Vampire Weekend is a New York indie pop band that has littered the radio with their ever so playful tracks ranging from “Horchata” , “Cousins” , “Holiday”, and “A-Punk”. Their music has the tendency to put me in the mood to go relax on a beach whilst sipping on a Pina Colada. That was my initial belief before listening to “Modern Vampires in the City”. In this project, I’m both surprised and amazed at how far they went away from their formula that has for the most part, been very successful. The atmosphere on this album no longer feels jolly and tropical as do their previous albums. That is replaced with lyrics portraying anxiety and depression. The band traverses onto bigger topics such as the aspect of religion and the anxiety that comes along with anticipation of death. “Modern Vampires in the City” is a change of pace where the band brushes aside their usual formula and give us a more serious project that takes a philosophical approach about facing the reality of dying all while delivering catchy hooks and beautiful production.
The production on this album is without a doubt their most ambitious attempt at exploring different sounds. It’s produced very well and has a real nice range of variety from slow burning tracks, “Obvious Bicycle”, to the right in your face tracks, “Finger Back”. On this project, you won’t find Vampire Weekend’s usual approach. There are no tracks that resemble “Horchata” or “Cousins”. That is the whole point though. The production needs to sound depressing due to the messages being conveyed throughout the project: imminent death. The idea of death on this album is beaten into your head the whole way through. Sometimes it may be subtlety done, other times it’s clearly the subject of the entire song such as on the track “Diane Young”.
The intro to this album, “Obvious Bicycle”, begins with lyrics depicting this unnamed man who has lost all hope. ” Morning’s come, you’ve watched the red sun rise/The LED still flickers in your eyes/Oh you ought to spare your face the razor/Because no one’s gonna spare their time for you.” Immediately, the tone of the album is set with this brutal depiction of this man with no strive or determination. The instrumental is this real slow paced off-beat sample with the ever so often explosion of well orchestrated sounds that makes up for a very gorgeous song . The following track “The Unbelievers” , is where things get interesting. It’s the first of many tracks that reference religion in a cut throat fashion. Ezra, the singer of Vampire Weekend, sings over this up-tempo beat about whether which “holy water” will contain a drop for him. As a whole, it sounds real upbeat and lively but once the lyrics are actually taken in, the upbeat production seems more as a facade. Throughout the album, this is very common tactic used. The album will have some real beautiful, lush, and attractive sounds on a track and then bombard you with the lyrics of imminent death and religious credibility. It manages to keep a real light approach to these subjects, which is great for the listener
“Diane Young” is a clear example of a fun track that hammers death into our ears. Ezra cleverly uses the name “Diane Young” as a play on “Dying young.” This track has this real fun, upbeat, bubbly production that allows Ezra to rattle on about “If Diane Young won’t change your mind,/Baby, baby, baby, baby right on time.” This is an undeniably catchy anthem about living young and dying fast. As I’ve mentioned before, the band does a wonderful job of keeping their subject matter serious all while having the production make the song sound actually light and happy. Another upbeat track that follows this style is “Finger Back”. The hardly audible lyrics of the track depict repeated torture through the track. ” Bend my finger back (snap)/Wrap it in a paper towel/Break a twig in half and set it straight”.
Religion is an aspect that the band treks through quite often on the album. To continue their bold expedition into the touchy subject, Vampire Weekend has tracks such as “Ya Hey” and “Worship You”. The first track mentioned is quite possibly the most direct attack to religion. The song is mainly about how Ezra worries how maybe he should of practiced religion as his time is coming to an end but then proceeds tells himself that he shouldn’t worry because he questions religion’s credibility any ways. “Through the fire and through the flames/You won’t even say your name/Only “I am that I am”/ But who could ever live that way?” This verse is clearly targeting God, the “I am that I am” reference is what God said to Moses when asked who he is. Along with that line, the chorus also carries some heavy religious weight. “Ya Hey” actually represents “Yahweh”, the name of the Jewish God. When the high pitched voices come into the mix, the chorus goes ” Ya hey , Ut Deo, ya hey “. “Ut Deo” means “To God” in Latin as well. Hopefully you guys are still following, if you listen closely to that high pitched chorus with Ezra singing along, the “Ut Deo” part sounds very closely to “what Deo”. Basically meaning, “what god?”. The song overall is really catchy but with all of this meaning tucked into the song, you can’t help but stop and admire all of the clever intricate details the band has in this song and for that matter, the entire album.
There are some very high points to this albums but the album falters quite a bit with a few tracks that did nothing for me. “Everlasting Arms” and “Worship You” were kind of just mediocre to me. The songs weren’t interesting enough to captivate me and lacked a catchy hook as well as riveting production. Most of the time though, this album was stellar. Let it be the beautiful disheartening intro, the fast paced song “Finger back” towards the middle, or the well suited conclusion in “Young Lion”. The last track is a near perfect way to conclude the album, it begins with a very depressing, mellow piano scale which then sort of lifts into this light and happy piano riff. The track has only one message to leave us with and that is ” You take your time, young lion”. The album is basically a look back at the opportunities they missed, lovers they should of stayed with, and living to the fullest. The conclusion is this uplifting track about taking your time, not to worry and taking one thing at a time. These attention to details , great production, and great writing make this a stand out album that will be a reminder to this generation of “YOLO” believers to take our time and just live life one step at a time.