Vampire Weekend releases Modern Vampires of the City

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On May 14, Vampire Weekend released their third studio album, “Modern Vampires of the City.” Featured on the cover of the long awaited record is a 1966 photograph of smoggy New York skyline taken by Neal Boenzi and the traditional “VAMPIRE WEEKEND” written in white Futura font. Unlike their previous albums, “Vampire Weekend” and “Contra,” the cover of “MVOTC” is black and white, setting a darker and more serious tone for their final record in their newly completed trilogy.

As anticipated, the album quickly rose to number one in the Billboard charts. Music critics are raving over “MVOTC,” calling it the band’s best album yet, and I’m inclined to agree. In the past, the band has been labeled as ‘the preppy Ivy league band,’ often criticized for their privileged backgrounds, as well as their more academic approach to African music.

Since the release of their new songs, theses arguments seem more fallacious than ever. For Vampire Weekend, the academic approach simply works- one of the main draws of the band is the cleverness of their lyrics. As an English major, lead singer and songwriter Ezra Koenig includes many cultural and literary allusions in the band’s lyrics. Even after listening to their albums dozens of times, I still find myself googling references Koenig makes.

Their first two albums were relatively cheery, focusing on New England culture and experimenting with joyous African rhythms. However, “MVOTC” delves into darker themes such as death, questioning of religious faith and above all else, the disillusionment of growing up.

The album begins with its first track, “Obvious Bicycle.” Though to listeners, the title is not so obvious, the opening line “Morning’s come, you watch the red sun rise,” clearly sets the scene for a fresh beginning. The modern theme introduced in the title is also present in the following line, “The LED still flickers in your eyes.”

In many ways, MVOTC is a much more personal album than the first two. As mentioned, a huge theme throughout the album is the melancholy that accompanies getting older. Koenig stated in a recent interview with NPR, somewhat forlornly, “This is the last album we’ll ever make in our twenties.” The band is no longer the Sperry wearing, fresh faced Columbia graduates they were when they released “Vampire Weekend.” Much like their music, the band has matured. Koenig sings in “Step,” “Wisdom’s a gift but you’d trade it for youth.”

Yet, the album is also in many ways a continuation of the first two- the three albums have been referred to as a trilogy by the band, and the connections are much deeper than the signature Futura on all of the album covers.

Take the song “Hannah Hunt,” for example. It begins with the background noises of everyday life before the music comes in and Koenig tells the story of a couple on a cross country road trip. The first two minutes and forty seconds are quietly beautiful, filled with small details such as crawling vines the couple sees, and newspaper kindling, before the song absolutely explodes.

Koenig and Baio perform during their May 17 concert.
Koenig and Baio perform during their May 17 concert.

Koenig, singing as the boyfriend of the couple, desperately pleads to his girlfriend, “If I can’t trust you then damn it, Hannah/ there’s no future, there’s no answer/ though we live on the US dollar/ you and me, we got our own sense of time.” And in these 30 seconds, time stops just for a moment- not only for the couple, but for the listeners.

While the song was already by far my favorite off the album, it was only after scouring reviews that I realized ‘Hannah Hunt’ is a sobering continuation of the couple in the song ‘Run,’ off the second album. Run tells of a giddy young couple planning to run away together, but as we see in ‘Hannah Hunt,’ they cannot run from the real world forever. It is little ties like these that make Koenig’s songwriting so special. Koenig, known for his pop culture allusions, has become self referential, which to devoted fans feels as though they are being allowed in on inside jokes with the band.

Following the release of their album, Vampire Weekend performed one of its first shows of the “MVOTC” tour at the Fillmore Detroit in Detroit, MI. The show on Friday, May 17 completely sold out, with dedicated fans arriving 3 hours before the doors opened to ensure the best seats. The line wrapped around two buildings before approaching the entrance.

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The crowd at the Fillmore Detroit eagerly awaits for Vampire Weekend to take the stage.

The show was their first performance in Detroit, and the band was clearly flattered by the amount of love the crowd showed them. The venue was packed, and when the band finally took to the stage the cheering lasted a solid two minutes. Their performance was energetic and joyous, and both band and crowd were clearly having a lot of fun.

Opening for the evening was High Highs, young indie rock band all the way from Sydney, Australia. They performed songs from their debut album “Open Season” released this previous January. They will continue to tour along Vampire Weekend, and will later be joined by Haim, rising rock band from LA.

Vampire Weekend’s performance mostly consisted of songs from their two earliest albums. “A-Punk,” “Cousins,” and “Holiday” were all crowd favorites. The audience engaged in a fun call and response during “One (Blake’s Got New Face)”.

Since the concert was only two days after the release of the album to the general public, they didn’t play many new songs; from “MVOTC,” they performed their singles “Diane Young,” “Step,” and “Ya Hey.” A personal highlight was a beautiful continuation of “Horchata” into “Everlasting Arms,” a treat one can only experience live. They closed with an encore of three songs, and ended with some of my favorites, “Diplomat’s Son” and “Walcott.”

During the summer months, Vampire Weekend will continue to tour in much of Europe, stopping in cities such as Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin. They will also be performing in several different summer festivals including Firefly and Outside Lands.

Buy and listen to “Modern Vampires of the City” here!