Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend (XL, 2013. 42 minutes)
Vampire Weekend is an American rock band from New York formed during the member’s time at Columbia University. The band has released 3 studio albums to critical acclaim.
We All Change
Whether Evangelical, Catholic, Buddhist, agnostic, or atheist, it seems as if the belief tradition in which you grew up changes with age. Some completely shift from one side of the spectrum to the other; others discover a more nuanced change, keeping the root beliefs but applying them differently.
What was once blindly accepted due to parents’ beliefs now becomes something worth testing. Is this belief true? Does it withstand scrutiny and a critical eye? On the other side of such test exists the unknown—life as a unique adult in the real world.
With Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend captures this tension of growing up. With summer-drenched accessible pop converging upon dark, brooding lyrics, this album offers much for any listener.
Happy Music, Questioning Lyrics
Dealing with faith and religion functions as the biggest motif running through Modern Vampires of the City. What happens when you lose the faith you held as a child? Can belief withstand such scrutiny? The first single, “Unbelievers” assaults these questions with major-key-driven happy pop married to underlying lyrics conveying dread and doubt.
“We know the fire awaits unbelievers / All of the sinners the same / Girl, you and I will die unbelievers / Bound to the tracks of the train”
Continuously, vocalist Ezra Koenig returns to this theme. In songs such as “Everlasting Arms” and “Worship You,” popular theological terms transform into earth-bound faithless provocations.
In Vampire Weekend’s first two albums, the band built its brand upon a mélange of punk rock and afrobeat. With Modern Vampires of the City, the music experiences a maturation away from this mixture. Where previous tunes presented these influences in glaring obviousness, the inspirations on this record are much more subtle.
Each song still offers the vocal gymnastics one would typically find in world music, but the impact is understated.
Likewise, the punk influence emerges on certain songs, like the quick-tempo “Diane Young.” Themes of growing up and pondering the finitude of life continue in this tune:
“Nobody knows what the future holds / And it’s bad enough just getting old / Live my life in self-defense / You know I love the past cuz I hate suspense”
Musically and lyrically, the threnodies of a millennial emerge most clearly in the pinnacle track of this record, “Ya Hey.” A slow, melodic verse transforms into a pulsating chorus as Koenig ponders existence and concludes he needs to let go.
“Oh, sweet thing / Zion doesn’t love you / And Babylon don’t love you / But you love everything / Oh, you saint / America don’t love you / So I could never love you / In spite of everything / In the dark of this place / There’s the glow of your face / There’s the dust on the screen / Of this broken machine / And I can’t help but feel that I’ve made some mistake / But I let it go”
An album of tension, Modern Vampires of the City, blends poppy blast-your-stereo-with-the-windows-down-in-summer music with introspective and existential lyrics. We’ve all questioned what life means. We’ve all wondered if the things we took for granted growing up are true. Modern Vampires of the City offers a fantastic counterpoint for those who question the definitions of life a decade removed from the shelter and protection of parents. We all need to make life our own, whatever that means for each person.
Modern Vampires of the City is a flawless record well worth your time.
Verdict: 5 out of 5