* * * * (four stars out of five)
You bought the debut Vampire Weekend album as soon as it came out thanks to the pre-release buzz. It lived up to the hype, spending a full year in heavy rotation on your iPod,and everyone you shared it with loved it. You began to wonder: If everyone loves it, is it still cool for you to like it too? You went to a Vampire Weekend concert and found yourself surrounded by 16-year-old girls squealing in delight at the geeky guys up on the stage. But the music was so damn infectious, you put your doubts aside and keep playing “A-Punk” over and over (and over) again.
Then Vampire Weekend releases Contra and you wonder how the sophomore effort could possibly grab you as much as the frosh disk. And you think to yourself, “frosh” is a word that the guys in Vampire Weekend would use, prepsters that they are. Speaking of preppies, you can’t take your eyes off the girl in the polo shirt on the album cover. What’s her story, you wonder? Is she a contra? What is a contra, anyway? If the first album featured African-inspired rhythms, is this one going to be inspired by Nicaraguan rebel music?
So you spin the disk and you are greeted by Ezra Koenig singing about drinking Horchata in December and musing about how he looks psychotic in a balaclava and you think, Oh, very clever wordplay, snotty Mr. Preppy, and you think you might just like to slap him for becoming so predictable so soon into a promising musical career. But then you get caught up in the infectiousness of it all over again and you think maybe he’s not predictable as much as he is mining a very rich vein.
Next, you wonder how a guy could pitch his voice so high as in the chorus to “White Sky.” You note that overall, Contra sounds maybe a bit more synth than the last album, but you’re also surprised to note that you’re okay with it. It’s warm, emotional synth, if such a thing exists, and Rostam Batmanglij’s keyboards essentially serve as the chorus in the let’s-chuck-everything-and-live-off-your-trust-fund fantasy, “Run.” You dig the frenetic, staccato energy of “California English” and “Cousins,” and the more introspective “Taxi Cab.”
You know the Upper East Side milieu is starting to wear on some listeners, but it’s they who are the contras—you are not a contra, because you really like this album, just like you’re supposed to.