Altuesdays: Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampire of the City” is emotional turmoil, in the best way possible

Altuesdays: Vampire Weekends Modern Vampire of the City is emotional turmoil, in the best way possible

Sophia Fowler '22, Multimedia Manager

Listen to “Altuesdays Episode 2: Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City”” on Spreaker.

Vampire Weekend have found themselves being an infamous staple of the 2010s alternative scene. Despite their oddly similar sound to bands of their equal stature, such as Cage the Elephant or Foster the People, they provide a somewhat unique sound that manages to highlight them as a band that is independent to the genre they’ve called home. Their 2013 album, Modern Vampires of the City, follows the same track as many alternative artists find themselves wound up in: a third album that helps to define the band in their most iconic sense.

It opens up with “Obvious Bicycle”, a track that seems to be just as odd as the name. For an opening track, it already sets the standard for the theme of the rest of the album: a somewhat monotone vibe with a somber tone. Despite the fact that album openers are typically more upbeat and provide more of a hopeful feel over anything, this opener contrasts the previously sent precedent and does so with few flaws.

Track two, “Unbelievers”, is a stark contrast to the first with . This track gained radio play as a happy go-lucky type sound, and reintroduces the all-too-familiar sounds of Vampire Weekend displayed on previous albums, and future ones as well. While this track doesn’t hold much special to it, and doesn’t necessarily attempt to stray away from the previous sounds of the band, it acts as a nice familiar weight to what fans and listeners identify as Vampire Weekend.

The third track on the album, “Step”, is by far one of my favorites. There’s an oddly familiar sound of early 2000s indie rock, and a wonderful feeling of balance between a classic Vampire Weekend sound and a growing, evolving band, all while staying very true to the original feel of the album. This track alone may be one of the staples of what the album was truly about, defying what the band had previously done, especially after the success of their prior album, Contra, all while still remaining true to the heart and sound of the band.

Track four, “Diane Young”, is just plain alright. There’s nothing wrong about the upbeat, more pop-esque song, it definitely holds some legitimacy in terms of Vampire Weekend’s entire discography. That being said, much like “Unbelievers”, this song to me sounds much more like it was created for radio play or to be in a North Face commercial than actually fitting within the main themes and sound of what the album wants to achieve. While at the core, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the very indie-centricsong, it didn’t fit well on the actual album itself.

Skipping to track six, “Hannah Hunt”, this song alone may be placed up on a pedestal with “Step”, as it manages to be both familiar-sounding to the Vampire Weekend brand while conforming to how the album is meant to sound. Somehow, this song alone seems to take the cake as to what could’ve easily been a title track or the face of the album. It’s somber, yet upbeat. It’s dark while being incredibly light at the same time, and it’s such a conflicting song that only an experienced band like Vampire Weekend could actually pull off. For the first time on the album, Ezra Koenig’s voice truly enhances the feeling of the song. It’s grainy, it’s all over the place, and it fits perfectly with how contradicting the song itself already is.

Track eight, “Finger Back,”can only be described as obnoxious. I genuinely did not like this track, and it seems like a filler that the band doesn’t even know is a filler. I understand when bands attempt to make songs that really make no sense as a statement, such as The 1975 with “People” off of their fourth record Notes on a Conditional Form. That being said, Vampire Weekend just couldn’t achieve this sound yet. It seems as if the band was attempting to strive for something they hadn’t matured to yet, and did so with so many flaws that the song seems like it should’ve been one of the first scrapped.

Track nine, “Worship You”, is what “Finger Back” attempted to do. It’s chaotic and makes zero sense with unfamiliar, not well-blended sounds that manage to somehow come out actually bearable, and something that you could easily listen to in the car without skipping. That being said, this song seems to again draw away from the roots of the album, and in turn adds less legitimacy to the sound; somber-feeling listeners would assume we would have based off of track one.

The final track, “Young Lion”, is a true acoustic with a haunting back melody to it. While I can see why this cinematic song was placed on the last track, I don’t see it as a huge staple or step for the band as some final tracks play. It seems more of an interlude track over anything, which provides an element of confusion as a listener. What also bothers me slightly is the Fisher-Price-sounding piano, which I’m sure refers to the title “Young Lion”, but at the same time, the sound alone seems to contrast far too much to the initial track to the point where it becomes almost another layer of the song, separate from the backtrack. While this may be the intention of the band, I find it far more complex as a listener on a song that never needed to actually be that complex.

The lyricsism of this entire album stands out as the true diamond in the rough. As someone who is not a fan of Ezra Koenig’s vocals, and overall of the Vampire Weekend sound, I can truly say that the lyricism here is simple but deep. At the very least, this album achieved what many could not, lyrics any person could listen to and understand, all while still ranging in every direction of human emotion in a controlled and structured manner.

Overall, I can see why this album is so important in terms of Vampire Weekend’s discography, but this album would seem underwhelming in most other notable artists’ catalogues. Personally, I was not a fan of this album–it seems too conflicting, there are too many layers and sounds clashing to make it as cohesive as most artists strive for. I believe while there is a hiding layer of cohesiveness and melody, the band didn’t quite achieve that, and in turn, made this album more about the feeling of emotional turmoil listeners receive over the actual sound of the songs.