Contra

by Vampire Weekend

The four-piece Vamps from NY, NY are back with their second LP. Itís a very sunny affair too, brightening up the dullest of winters.

Vampire Weekend - Contra

Thereís something of the Paul Simon about it; particularly his 1996 Graceland album. It has a lively ethnic quality about it, giving off quite the tribal vibe.

Its opener Horchata (a traditional beverage drunk in Latin America that can contain ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, or tigernuts, amongst other ingredients) is a bubbly little track, that bounces along with xylophones plonking their way throughout. Play it over some images of beaches and palm trees and youíve got one compelling ad for a sunny destination.

White Sky is the closest to the Graceland vibe Ė Ezra Koenigís vocals are even remarkably similar to that of the diminutive Simon Ė with its chanty bits and Afrikaan rhythms. Itís upbeat and undeniably friendly, like a cheeky puppy incessantly licking your face.

All this up tempo-ness pulls over for a quick breather with Taxi Cab. The pace may have slowed down, with Koenig singing the lyrics almost as if in spoken word form, but even the uncluttered production still gives it a foot-tapping quality.

It all gets frantic again, with the recent single Cousins, which is the musical equivalent of repeatedly hitting a piŮata Ė not for sake of breaking it open, but purely for the sake of hitting the thing. Itís a manic abuse in world music that works brilliantly.

Koenig doesnít have the most of original of voices; itís not particularly strong or distinctive. His is an inoffensive vocal that trickles over some really well-crafted tunes.

Contra is like a musical recipe book, each track containing different flavours from around the globe. Each one is a tasty treat, and whatís even better is that theyíre calorie-free. And if you feel yourself drawn to holiday brochures whilst listening to it, donít be too surprised. If you canít afford the sun, then simply play the album again. And again. And again. Boy does it shine.

four out of five