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"Contra," Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend takes a cue from the Clash on their sophomore record

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Hype is tough. Vampire Weekend received their fair share of backlash for their first album and their particular blend of melodic indie and Afropop. There’s admittedly a certain amount of pretention involved — the group refers to their own style as “Upper West Side Soweto.” Hmm. Their sophomore album, Contra, finds them still mired in that musical collage, but leaning heavily on the Clash’s 1980 album Sandinista. There are a myriad of references to Nicaraguan rebels, political intrigue, a sample from M.I.A.

It’s slightly sparser in the instrumentation than usual, using more synthesizers and less orchestration — but it still cribs heavily from Soukous and Congolese cues. The band has made progress, but it’s a matter of slow gradation rather than wild derivation. Not much has changed: Vampire Weekend is still sticking to the band’s successful formula, counting on Contra’s familiarity to deliver them back into the arms of their (hopefully still) adoring fans. Love them or hate them, they still elicit strong reactions.

DOWNLOAD: “Diplomat’s Son”

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