Vampire Weekend’s Contra couldn’t have come at better or a worse time for me. Providing us the brilliant gift of eleven sunny songs in the smack dab middle of winter has brightened my mood considerably; but then when I step outside and it’s not at all like the dreamy, warm landscapes Ezra Koenig and the boys create in this album, I seriously consider leaving my life in North Carolina for a life of peddling shells on some island in the Caribbean — something my parents and student loan lenders wouldn’t appreciate.
But then that’s the best summation of this album I can give. Much like their self titled debut album, Contra just feels warm and exciting. Koenig’s soaring voice and distinct enunciations complimented by surfer pop and African-inspired rhythms creates a mind-blowing musical journey that only requires a little SPF and a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers.
The album starts out with a homerun in “Horchata,” a song that really drives home my greedy longing for summer. I almost get the feeling they are mocking my pain with lines like “Winter’s cold is too much to handle” with the peppy steel drum laughing at me in the background.
The next few songs breeze by with the same carefree sound as “Horchata,” until you get to “Taxi Cab” which shines both in its lyrics and the performance. I could go on and on about it, but Koenig has such an amazing voice that even in its softest moments demands your attention. He plays with words and the enunciations of words in such a way that it makes you feel like you hearing them for the first time. It’s truly breathtaking, and this talent is particularly showcased in this song.
Traveling down the album list, the next standout is “Diplomat’s Son,” which features an intro from the delightfully eclectic M.I.A. who brings even more pep to these guys’ already bouncy sound. And then there’s the album ender “I Think Ur a Contra” which has many of the same endearing elements as “Taxi Cab” but with an even softer, smoother sound.
After listening to this record on repeat for the past week, I can’t help but draw a comparison to Paul Simon’s Graceland, a compliment that I have been hoping to extend for years to some band. Koenig has the same crispness in his voice that popularized Simon, and the band explores the same African sounds as Simon did in his beautiful Graceland. But while the similarities are there, make no mistake: this album is Vampire Weekend from the first note to the last, and it truly is a delight.