As of last week, Vampire Weekend released their follow up to 2008’s self-titled greatest hit. If you’re like me, you picked up the new “disc” just last week on the release date but most of the Western world have been listening to leaked tracks from it since at least a month after their first album was released. In the indie world, Vampire Weekend is as hyped as they come. For a band that has managed to garner a serious following in a few short years, their songs are often characteristically uncomplex; exercises in capturing the spirit of a Woody Allen film from the 1970s, a time when none of the members were born yet. If you can believe it, there was a time a few years ago when Vampire Weekend was nothing more than a whisper of Columbia University English majors, buzzing with an excitement not felt since word spread about whatever bullshit band came before them. But now, the band can boast several tours and two full length releases in the last three years. None can doubt their formidable presence in the collective consciousness of college frat bros and Brooklyn hipsters alike.
With Contra, Vampire Weekend has done the unthinkable: they made a sophomore album with only a tinge of sophomoric-ness. I would have said it was complete devoid of all sophomore release clichés until “Run” came on, horns a blaring. But the beauty of the band and their songs can be found in the drastically understated choice of album art this time around (see picture, right, click for bigger image). To me, this image captures the essence of the band and the album in many ways. The girl, young and beautiful, seen here in a moment of half-surprise. Her half-popped, yellow Polo an example of restrained high-class culture and leisure. The mildly bemused expression on her face seems to suggest a passive relationship with the rest of the world in love with her. This is Vampire Weekend: young, talented, brimming with irony and offering a whimsical music catalog to the world with a casual sense of self-awareness but not without an air of arrogance.