When Vampire Weekend released their self-titled debut album in 2007, they did so on the back of the kind of massive internet hype that ensured that their album was one of the most eagerly anticipated debuts of the modern era. Once the album dropped, things started to happen very quickly for the band and it wasn't long before they were choking on the acclaim of the music press, as the inevitable backlash kicked in. Their preppy, Ivy League image and assimilation of African music influences was seen by some as a grating attempt to garner a little street cred. The smart, intelligent, lyrical wordplay was also used as a stick to beat them with - Vampire Weekend were just too damn clever for their own good.
Sophomore effort Contra suffered a little in the shadow of all this negativity - it was a richer, more expansive effort than their debut, but retained a strong melodic thrust along with the bands penchant for sunny sounding guitars and jaunty tunes.
Third album Modern Vampires of the City arrives with expectations well and truly lowered as the buzz around the band has died away considerably - and it is an absolute stunner. This is pop music at it's very best - inventive, melodic hooks at every turn and the most beautifully produced collection of songs you are likely to hear this year. Every single sonic moment on this record adds immeasurably to the enjoyment of these songs - it is ear candy with substance as the songs themselves are some of the strongest the band has written to date. The warm piano chords and Beach Boys chorus harmonies of the utterly gorgeous opener 'Obvious Bicycle' introduces an album laden with golden moments. 'Step', with its elegant harpsichord melody and chorus to die for, makes for an obvious single, but it's on the faster numbers like 'Diane Young' where the band let their more adventurous side off leash and the results are startling moments of pop brilliance.
'Hannah Hunt' starts off at a stately pace before achieving take off half way through when the band kick in for another of those little surprise twists that make this album so special.
Gone are the heavily stylised World Music influences that sounded uncomfortably like a pretentious and forced affectation. Gone also is the feeling that Vampire Weekend are trying too hard to convince us they are a little cleverer, a little cooler and a little more credible than their peers.
In its place, Vampire Weekend have presented us with an extravagant bounty of pop gifts, an album that restores our faith in the belief that pop music is capable of delivering surprises when we least expect it to.