Artist: Vampire Weekend
As much as I loved The National's High Violet, Vampire Weekend's sophomore effort Contra takes my prize for most creative pop record of the year. Even while wearing its influences on its sleeves (I hear a lot of Paul Simon and a little Elvis Costello among others), the band delivers a truly unique blend of guitars, synths and percussion in support of cleverly constructed songs. Brilliant production from band member Rostam Batmanglij pushes the record to crazily gratifying heights.
There are a lot of great songs on Contra but "Horchata" never disappoints me. Syncopated rhythms wend their way through African percussion, strings, synthesizers and pulsating beats that keep you guessing where they may land next. Ezra Koenig's voice is everything I've always hoped The Shins' James Mercer's could be—playful, youthful, but, most of all, controlled. As with most every song on the album (but perhaps not to the same extent), all the instruments on "Horchata" are simultaneously percussive and melodic—the musical equivalent of pointillism. If the song has a weakness, it's the lyrics. But even if they're not that great, they're evocative and interesting, which is more than I can say for most of what I hear today.
I realize this post is comprised mostly of gushing about a song and a band that have already received a lifetime's worth of praise, but it's Saturday and I'm tired and this is all I can muster. Peace out!