Album: Vampire Weekend, Contra (XL)

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The Independent Culture

It's hard to listen to Vampire Weekend's second album without being struck by the resemblance to Paul Simon's Graceland, in a way which was never as obvious on their debut.

It's not just the juju rhythms and soukous guitar, or their being smart-alec New York college kids on musical vacation in Africa, though both these aspects are significant. But the thing which most strongly aligns them with Simon is their similar playful linking of joyous music with cerebral ruminations – as most evident here in "Holiday", where over a subtle ska-beat they yoke together joy at the prospect of holidays with discomfort at US involvement in the Middle East. It's a strategy they employ time and again here, from the sparkling kalimba-led opener "Horchata" – a Mexican rice beverage outlandishly rhymed with masada and Aranciata – to the concluding "I Think Ur a Contra", where the gossamer fluttering of guitars, piano, strings and nyabinghi-beat percussion swirls around a lyric about duplicity. Elsewhere, "California English" continues the linguistic intrigue of their debut's "Oxford Comma", "Taxi Cab" adds harpsichord to their sonic armoury, and "Diplomat's Son" makes mischievous play with different tempi of Toots & the Maytals' "Pressure Drop" groove, alternating between dancehall and roots styles. Quite literally, a world of fun.

Download this Horchata; White Sky; Holiday; Taxi Cab; Cousins