Graceland –> Contra

Contra

If you like Paul Simon’s Graceland you’ll like Vampire Weekend’s new album Contra, out today. And, that is a huge compliment to Vampire Weekend. Graceland was a landmark in a white guy perfecting afro-pop. I think Contra is stronger than their first album. “Horchata” basically is the best song to play for someone who hasn’t heard them. Vampire Weekend have their own “sound” for the most part, and that basically is breezy and playful. Tropical in possibly the whitest sense, with lots of blinky, bouncy percussion and plenty of strings and woodwinds. They use a lot of synths too, like the “horns” in “Run”. “Horchata” vaguely reminds me of Animal Collective in the beginning, because of the synths and because of AC’s own debt to world music. But, those marimbas are pure Paul Simon. If you listen to the guitar on “California English” or in the opening to “Cousins” you can really hear the debt to Paul Simon. At times Ezra Koenig, who has a sweet sounding voice, sounds like Paul Simon too. Listen to his vocals during parts of “Diplomat’s Son” or “I Think Ur A Contra”. They sample M.I.A. during “Diplomat’s Son”, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s on purpose during a song called “Diplomat’s Son”. M.I.A. being arguably the greatest artist right now in marrying various kinds of world music with modern hiphop and dance styles. With Contra, Vampire Weekend have clearly decided to embrace their idiosyncrasies. “Holiday” is almost carnivalesque with that guitar sound. The strings during “I Think Ur A Contra” are lovely, and during “Horchata” they’re bright and fun. I know it seems I’m being unfair to Vampire Weekend, but I truly think they’re very good. If you like one, Paul Simon or Vampire Weekend, check out the other.

Vampire Weekend – Run

Paul Simon – Graceland (of course)

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