By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
When it burst on the scene two years ago with its self-titled, Afro-centric, indie-pop debut, Vampire Weekend was the subject of such overheated blogger buzz and hipster adoration that it didn't even have to await its sophomore release before the backlash began.
Hopefully all the haters got it out of their systems, though, because January's follow-up, Contra, is an even better release than the first, filled with a richer sound palette and a stronger top-to-bottom batch of songs to showcase the band's flair for creative juxtaposition and alluring melodic sensibilities. The attention lavished on the Brooklyn quartet helped Contra debut atop the Billboard charts—and become only the 12th independently distributed album to hit No. 1 on the chart in Soundscan's 20-year history.
For this take, the band's musical touchstones have expanded to include baile funk, calypso, reggae and electronica, fused with its already-inimitably boisterous baroque warmth. And just as Vampire Weekend's globe-trotting influences collapse musical boundaries, singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig's lyrics tend to tear at the superficial hierarchies we use to separate ourselves. The infectious, frenetic "Cousins" weighs compulsive list-making and status-consciousness against our common ancestry, while the Afro-pop "California English" questions the parochialism of brand loyalty.
Though opener Abe Vigoda rose from the L.A. noise-rock scene that birthed No Age, it's not quite as dissonant or chaotic. And, on 2008's Skeleton, Abe Vigoda, too, began incorporating worldbeat influences, a la this show's headliners.