Whether they realize it or not (and I’m sure they do), Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires Of The City is like a big hug for anxious millennials overwhelmed by the Rube Goldberg machine of their own existence amidst a myriad of tumblr guilt, globalized potential, and historiographical shame. Through its rich inviting sound, both equally ornate (“Step”) as it it is messy (“Worship You”), Vampires is an achievement, Koenig, Batmanglij, Baio and Tomson (and producer Ariel Rechtshaid!), taking age-old problems and attempting to confront them using modern circumstances.
“I’m not excited, but should I be,” pleads lead singer Ezra Koenig on “Unbelievers,” bringing up the elephant in the room. The flurry of timpani and flute and deep bassy horns die away and for the first time the most primal of concerns is laid bare. Where is this is comfort we so desperately need? We’re all searching for the comfort in having a purpose and in having meaning in our lives. Who cares what we believe in, “All of the sinners, the same,” cries out Koenig before asking again, “What holy water contains a little drop, little drop for me?” Perhaps someone out there is listening if we can keep asking.
The grammar of religious music is a common tool Vampire Weekend use throughout Vampires, whether it’s choral voices on “Step,” “Ya Hey,” “Hudson,” and “Young Lion” or church organ on “Don’t Lie,” “Everlasting Arms,” “Finger Back,” or the aforementioned “Unbelievers.” This supplied with the warm analog production contributes to the down-to-earth concerns, the band surmounting the criticisms of pretentiousness and negating bombs (also lobbed at contemporary Wes Anderson) of preferring fussiness over humanity. When Koenig sings, “You and me, we got our own sense of time,” on the devastating “Hannah Hunt,” he expresses a counterpoint and perhaps an answer to, if only briefly, the powerlessness and despair felt by (often) young and troubled minds.
I would be remiss to not mention the utter joy and humor on many of the tracks on Vampires. It’s not an entirely somber and sober affair. That plaintive pondering on “Unbelievers” sounds serious enough, but when backed by rollicking drum and piano with club-worthy orchestra drops, these questions float by like the landscape on a road trip up the coast. And maybe through yo-yo-ing between intentioned observation, “‘Cause this Orthodox girl fell in love with the guy at the falafel shop,” and stubborn presence, “Should she have averted her eyes and just stared at the laminated poster of the dome of the rock,” as Koenig broadcasts during the spoken word interlude on “Finger Back,” we can find a way to move forward.
In the latest of a million tired trend pieces on millennials, Sam Tanenhaus of the New York Times disparages the generation’s perceived optimism and expectation. Being “nursed on the traditional American dream,” he claims darkly, “Cultural transformations are seldom cost-free.” Is this anything new? When Koenig howls, “Little bit of light to get us through the final days you want it,” and the band plays along breathlessly, can anyone argue with this desire? For a millennial like me, it’s a message of comfort I need to hear now more than ever. We are all Modern Vampires Of The City.
Grab the record here!
A great piece on the making of Modern Vampires Of The City