When it burst on the scene two years ago with its self-titled, Afro-centric, indie-pop debut, Vampire Weekend was the subject of such overheated blogger buzz and hipster adoration that it didn't even have to await its sophomore release before the backlash began. Hopefully all the haters got it out of their systems, though, because follow-up Contra, released in January, is an even better album than the first. Filled with a richer sound palette and a stronger top-to-bottom batch of songs, it showcases the band's flair for creative juxtaposition and alluring melodic sensibilities. For this take, Vampire Weekend's musical touchstones have expanded to include baile funk, calypso, reggae and electronica, fused with its already-boisterous baroque warmth. And just as the group's globe-trotting influences collapse musical boundaries, singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig's lyrics tend to tear at the superficial hierarchies we use to separate ourselves. The infectious, frenetic "Cousins" weighs compulsive list-making and status-consciousness against our common ancestry, while the Afro-pop "California English" questions the parochialism of brand loyalty.
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