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New single starts sophomore buzz for Vampire Weekend

October 8, 2009

Vampire Weekend

Rating: 6.5./10

Vampire Weekend set the blogosphere on fire with every move they make. The subtle announcement of their next album, Contra was no exception.

Their record label, XL, has deftly used viral marketing to create an early buzz about their sophomore effort, due January 12. The label furthered it’s tasteful viral build-up on Monday by making the song “Horchata,” from Contra, available to stream and download for free on the album Web site,

Since their stellar self-titled debut in ’08, the band has done much touring, but has exposed the masses to little new material. They contributed one song to the Nick and Norah soundtrack, “Ottoman,” and premiered another, “White Sky,” on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” in March.

While “Ottoman” lived up to the hype of the album that preceded it, “White Sky” fell flat (in my opinion) and gave birth to the notion of a sophomore slump for the New York foursome.

“Horchata” dispels any perceptions of mediocrity by presenting a superb prelude to their second full length.

The song beings with lead singer Ezra Koenig waxing pretentious as ever: “In December drinking horchata/ I look psychotic in a balaclava.”

From there he is joined by intricate rhythms, an airy chorus and a bit of synthesizer. The song hits hard with its’ vast instrumentation but avoids sounding murky at any point in its’ three and a half minutes.

With ornate string arrangements and delicate karimba and marimba orchestration, Vampire Weekend prove that they can still create beautiful baroque pop.

Part of the reason that “White Sky” was a disappointment (personally, at least) is that it seemed too simple and lacking the punch that the guitar provided in songs like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “A-Punk”.

“Hotchata” goes off completely devoid of any guitar, but still delivers with its lush sound and doesn’t leave the listener feeling that the song is hollow, or empty.

It’s easy to draw a comparison between this new song and “Walcott” because it has the pounding highs and gentle lows that are present in the bands single about vampire-infested Cape Cod. Likewise, it features catchy refrains that make it memorable and  worthy of being a single.

In an interview for Pitchfork Koenig explained that California had a strong influence on Contra and the sunny, breezy nature of “Horchata” seems to echo that sentiment.

The reverb drenched chorus and light strings lend the song a true West Coast aesthetic, that differs from any material from their self-titled debut.

Overall, “Horchata” provides a good teaser for Contra and gives fans a taste of what is to come. It’s what could be expected from Vampire Weekend, and that may be the best compliment to the song.

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