We’re three pieces of work in now and the band are still managing to cultivate a sound that is wholly theirs. Flourishes of harpsichord and organ still bream in the presence of Rostam Batmanglij’s straightforward and spacious form of production. Ezra Koenig hasn’t halted throwing obscure references and callbacks to his campus life to further solidify him as one of the more charming wordsmiths of this era, but where these lyrics used to be seated in whimsy they now bear an eerie undercurrent of melancholy.
These four men are no longer straight out of Ivy, they instead see themselves trying to comprehend and anticipate the next phase of their lives, having already achieved considerable fame and success. “Wisdom’s a gift but you trade it for youth, age is an honor, it’s still not the truth… We know the true death, the true way of all flesh, everyone’s dying but girl you’re not old yet.” Here on ‘Step’ Ezra decides not to use his wit for a cheery throwaway but instead croon earnestly about the acquisition of wisdom through age and how we would readily shed it with abandon for another chance at youth. ‘Step’ isn’t the only piece of music on this long play that dabbles in questioning where one might go to cope with their thirties. For one thing, ‘Diane Young’ was going to be called Dying Young; the chaps thought this might have been too obvious. On perhaps my favourite piece, ‘Don’t Lie’, Ezra protests, “Don’t lie, I want them to know, Gods love dies young, are you ready to go?” as if exclaiming the fact that he’s coming to terms with the inevitability of his future, asking himself whether he is ready to embrace it as well.
The tracks with space to breathe and a stage to occupy definitely stand out on this album. Which is perhaps why tracks like ‘Diane Young’ and ‘Worship You’ pale in comparison for me. A track that magnificently embodies the whimsy the band possesses with the presence of outside production help is ‘Hannah Hunt’, easily another contender for the most poignant track on this play. Perhaps it’s the overtly personal nature of the lyrics, or the subtle double-timed ride cymbal right as the scintillating piano hook arrives in the presence of a beautiful slide guitar riff that dovetails it exquisitely. Which is something I find odd about Vampire Weekends third LP, everything, every little glitch and panned tom drum, is expertly placed. It seems the themes their music now explores has matured with their production. In the process of abandoning some of the playfulness Rostam Batmanglij expressed on their debut and sophomore they’ve allowed themselves to explore more complex progressions such as on the climactic ‘Ya Hey’.
Modern Vampires of the City is easily an extremely intriguing listen; the group has managed to forge extremely memorable baroque pop ballads in the mold of ‘Step’, ‘Hannah Hunt’, and ‘Ya Hey’. However, their shorter and pacier tracks such as ‘Worship You’ and ‘Diane Young’ fail to grasp the playful abandon tracks such as ‘Cousins’ achieved.