Vampire Weekend: Contra 

XL

There are two rampant misconceptions about Vampire Weekend. One is that the group's music is Afro-pop, or has pretentions to be Afro-pop. The second is that it sucks. Neither is true. Sure, VW likes to use woodwind instruments, and has heard its share of Paul Simon and Ry Cooder, but the music is pure indie-pop of an intelligent and (mostly) unpretentious kind. The eponymous 2008 debut was one of the best records of that year, and the latest, Contra, will likely earn that title in 2010. Starting with the xylophone-driven "Horchata" and concluding with the inspired melancholy rumination "I Think Ur a Contra," the album plays to the band's strengths. The tunes are melodic and easy to latch onto, but substantial enough to convey real human emotion and say universal things in interesting ways. "Holiday" and "Giving Up the Gun" are highlights, but listen to Contra long enough and – unless you're deluding yourself – you'll fall for most of the tracks. 4 out of 5 stars.

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