Vampire Weekend – Contra

January 31, 2010

A band’s sophomore album is extremely important – listeners always hope to hear development in a group since their first release and hopefully not familiar sounding songs. While a killer first album is what gets people interested at first, a band’s second album is what really determines their future.

Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut was clean, refreshing, and successful. It wasn’t a life changing album for most, but the Afro-beat influence and use of strings, along with respectable song structure, and most of all, catchiness, attracted many. That being said, it seemed as if they were holding back at times, making a great but safe album with few risks – which is acceptable for a new band. The question was would they be able to top the pleasant album that won over so many?

Contra, Vampire Weekend’s highly anticipated follow-up record, introduces listeners to a completely new side of them. There’s more to this one than a purely enjoyable sound, as the band took a lot of risks and improved upon their song writing abilities tremendously with this ten track album. Processed sounds meet genuine sounds and the contrast between them is what makes Contra so interesting, along with the combination of various genres that could not possibly be blended together as effectively by any other band. Koenig’s vocals are far more passionate than ever, and their lyrics force listeners to view them as people with typical and relatable problems. “I Think Ur A Contra” ends the album and stands out as the most soulful track the band has ever released, with lyrics such as, “Never pick sides, never choose between two, but I just wanted you, I just wanted you.”

Contra hit number one on Billboard’s 200 within the first week of its release, being the 12th independently distributed album ever to do so since 1991. Listeners who tried so hard to find flaws in Vampire Weekend the first time around will have a much more difficult time doing so with Contra.