At some point, every enduring musician has to prove his or her worth and silence the doubters. The Beatles first succeeded with "Revolver," the Beastie Boys with "Paul's Boutique," Wilco on "Summer Teeth." Talking Heads raised the bar with "Fear of Music," Lauryn Hill with "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill."
New York band Vampire Weekend's "Modern Vampires of the City" is one of those records, a brave, surprising third effort that's both challenging and confident, catchy but progressive, expertly imagined and executed.
The band, which rose in the late '00s to become one of the most successful of the blog-rock era, expands its sound on "Modern Vampires" even as it celebrates sonic space and moments of silence. Drawing strange sampled rhythms ("Obvious Bicycle), patient structures ("Ya Hey") and dynamic production, the album feels like a complete statement.
At its center is the ever-expanding voice of singer-songwriter Ezra Koenig, who hits his falsetto with seamless grace — and elsewhere synthetically slows it to a deep, menacing crawl. "Step" features harpsichord, "Hannah Hunt" includes washes of sampled static and tones of mysterious origin. Overall, the result is a captivating record worthy of both repetition and obsession.
"Modern Vampires of the City"
Three and a half stars (out of four)Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times