With every self-righteous bone inside of me, I wanted to dislike Contra. I went through the same thing when I first heard their debut album a couple years ago. Sure, the first album was a good listen, but I had decided it was just a passing fad; a mere distraction from the deeper, more convoluted experiences that lay in albums by Fleet Foxes, Kanye West, and TV on the Radio from that year. To my dismay, it turns out Vampire Weekend is almost just as likable in 2010 as it was in 2007 and Contra, if nothing else, is simply the most charming album of the year. It only took hearing the vocal modification, rattling percussion, and eloquent string passages of "California English" to realize that Contra was both a continuation and a fulfillment of something Vampire Weekend had begun in their first record. Contra covers much of the same ground Vampire Weekend fans would want, whether its the bubbling electronics of "White Sky", the world beats of "Horchata", or even the more ska-flavored "Cousins", many of the songs recall familiar eccentricities, but feel twice as strong here. In the particularly easygoing hit, "White Sky", Ezra Koenig shows off some impressive wordplay in the setting of a stroll down a Manhattan block that makes his attempts in their debut album look childish. Yes, Vampire Weekend is still the same light-hearted, polo-wearing band they've always been. Fortunately though, Vampire Weekend takes some necessary steps forward as well, even venturing into taking in some different influences and more serious themes. The indie electro-pop influenced, "Giving Up the Gun", which seems to about making peaceful lifestyle changes, became the single of 2010 for many a hipster this summer and for good reason. Vampire Weekend makes glowing little eclectic pop gems like "Giving Up the Gun" seem effortless.
Koenig has stated in multiple interviews that many of the lyrics in Contra speak of what he calls "first-world guilt", attempting to understand living in privilege and the guilt that comes with it. Although you could easily get through the album multiple times without thinking about such things, it is certainly nice to hear Koenig's understated thoughts on more emotionally potent songs like "Taxi Cab" and "I Think Ur a Contra". They still claim that people take them more serious than they take themselves though. In Contra, they persist, continuing to be difficult to pin down, slyly existing between genres and subgenres, and pretending to not have much to say. Following a lawsuit with the $2 million lawsuit with the former-model who is featured on the Contra cover, this attitude is more refreshing a stance than ever. Then again, that's always been what Vampire Weekend has been about all along: putting down the guns and tearing down the walls that separate people unnecessarily for the sake of just having a good time. Again, they make it look effortless.