Much like Vampire Weekend's past releases, its third album, Modern Vampires of the City, is a blend of upbeat toe-tappers and unhurried tear-jerkers — but unlike earlier efforts, there's no hint of the band's world-music influence. While that move may alienate some its fans, it also gives way to a newfound warmth: The resulting tracks sound so full they could be solid physical objects.
With the help of Justin Bieber's producer, Ariel Rechtshaid, Vampire Weekend experimented in the recording studio with analog tape and pitch shifting. Fragile opener "Obvious Bicycle" sets the tone with its muffled percussion and wavering piano chords. Though the pitch shifts and recording techniques may be the most original part of Modern Vampires (especially as heard on "Diane Young" and "Ya Hey"), Vampire Weekend still supplies a few thoughtful pop tunes ("Step," for instance, which happens to name-check Oakland, Alameda, and Berkeley). In addition, the bass is fuzzier; the synths, pianos, and organs wobble more; and the lyrics, maybe because of the pitch shifts, are more affecting.
By distancing itself from its old sound, Vampire Weekend attempts to break new ground, but it merely confirms what most already know: This band makes music that will undeniably please the masses, whether or not it borrows from world music. (XL)