It was at a similarly chilly time of year back in 2008 that Vampire Weekend released their eponymous debut album. Unseasonably warm, afro-infused pop had my toes tapping for the rest of the year and it remains an album to get all hips wriggling chez nous. The naysayers accused the Ivy League graduates of being too clever with their lyrics about obscure punctuation and architectural features and even of cultural tourism with the African musical influences (let's be honest - if you removed the African musical influences from pop music you'd be left with...well, Chas 'n' Dave. And they've just split up). Personally, I grew up listening to Paul Simon's Graceland so I have no problem bouncing about the room to that kind of thing and I have been looking forward to the release of their sophomore effort.
Opening track Horchata will be grist to the mill of the doubters with its subject (a Mexican rice drink) and rhyming - balaclava and aranciata to name but two. For the converted, along with tracks like White Sky, Holiday and the guitar driven Cousins, it is a track that could have come from their previous album, providing more of the same if that's what you're after. Where they depart there are some huge hits and perhaps the odd miss. Some of the tracks that had me worried on my first listen have already become amongst my favourites. One still remains at the risk of being skipped each time though. One day some kind of judicial process will bring Auto-tune to trial for crimes against music but until that time we will have to endure more experiments with it like California English. It is followed however by the beautiful Taxi Cab in which frontman Koenig employs those beautiful, effortless, Paul Simon tones, backed by strings and later harpsichord. How's that for Ivy League! The electronic experimentation is far more successful on Run, a tale of escape that bursts with energy and light. It is an example of a track where the Afro influences are absorbed rather dominant, a good indication of where Vampire Weekend will continue to triumph. Giving Up The Gun is a good example of a track that has really grown on me, sounding first like something from an 80's brat-pack-flick-soundtrack but revealing something lovely with each new listen. The only drawback at the moment is that if M79 had a whiff of Ski-Sunday about it, then the repeated refrain of 'Go on, go on, go on' on this track might just remind you of Mrs Doyle from Father Ted. Sorry, I shouldn't have said that because it certainly will now (if you know what I'm talking about that is). Diplomat's Son is the longest track on a short album, almost two in one, its reggae like rhythm breaking down in places so that piano and strings can plonk and twirl away. There is something haunting and disorienting about closer I Think Ur A Contra which I'm loving. It's often the quieter moments that herald something exciting on this album, although I can't stop jumping around to Cousins either. In spite of those accusations from those against you can't help but admire the ways in which Vampire Weekend are clever and make the most of those influences, combining them with genuine creativity to make something entirely their own. It's early days but this already the first must-have album of the year. What better way to beat the cold-snap than put this on, mix up some horchata, and enjoy.