Vampire Weekend / Contra / XL
In the 2000 film High Fidelity, John Cusack’s character Rob explains his loathing for his ex-girlfriend’s new beau, who also happens to be his neighbour, by saying he is always cooking awful smelling food and listening to (sneeringly) ‘world music’. Well, as a fan of world music, Tim Robbins’ character Ian would probably love Vampire Weekend’s recently-released second album, Contra. The strange thing about this textured, airy sophomore effort is that I think Rob, the hipster record store owner, would probably dig it too.
Singer and guitarist Ezra Koenig’s downright tribal vocal melodies mix strangely well with his old-time true rock ‘n roll guitar and the bloops and bleeps provided by keyboardist and producer Rostam Batmanglij. Contra is most immediately enchanting during fast paced numbers like “Horchata,” “Cousins,” and the auto-tune heavy “California English,” but ballads that are just as texturally deep comprise the majority of the album. Perhaps not fully grasped at first, “I Think Ur a Contra” and the M.I.A.-sampling “Diplomat’s Son” are certainly songs that reward extra listens. With Contra, Vampire Weekend starts off 2010 on a promising note; something you’ll have to agree even if you normally sneer at world music.
Download: “White Sky”, “I Think Ur A Contra”
OK Go / Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky / Capitol Records
A first listen will produce thoughts of Animal Collective with more soul and less musical confusion, but Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky is more than that. The latest offering from OK Go and their first since 2005 is a departure from pop rock into an atmosphere full of exotic sounds, addictive melodies and soulful crooning. Unlike other indie hipsters and pop punk frontmen, singer Damien Kulash Jr. has the pipes to be creative (“This Too Shall Pass”) and be sincere (“Last Leaf”). There are a few numbers like “I Want You So Bad I Can’t Breathe” that drip nostalgic OK Go wrapped in its seductive skin, but they work surprisingly well on a record that was derived from a whole new perspective. Exciting and tantalizing to the ear, Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky may not seem like OK Go, but it puts a stamp on what groovy rock with synthesizers should sound like.
Download: “This Too Shall Pass”, “I Want You So Bad I Can’t Breathe”