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CD Review: Vampire Weekend

Contra (XL)

Forget the Afro-pop label garnered by Vampire Weekend's eponymous debut. This time around, the four preppy Columbia grads throw in Brazilian funk, reggaeton, dancehall and ska. New cultures collide, cheerfully bopping next to each other on an album that finds inspiration from almost every corner of the world. But somehow, the New Yorkers still sound exactly like they did on their debut, albeit with fingers pointed toward the Top 40. On Contra, the boys use samples (M.I.A.'s cha-cha vocals begin "Diplomat's Son") and turn up the Auto-Tune ("It doesn't sound like T-Pain," insists singer Ezra Koenig). Despite the LOL title, "I Think U R A Contra" proves that VW can make pretty, acoustic, string-laden ballads. Elsewhere, the songs jump and hop with Ritalin-laced synths, bouncy guitar and witty lyrical twists. "Horchata" starts with the couplet, "In December, drinking horchata/I'd look psychotic in a balaclava." It's this sense of humor that might keep them from being branded as pretentious — the kiss of death for many of today's indie bands. And with an album this lively, Vampire Weekend aren't ready to die. — Danielle Sills

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