Last summer, when MTV News first visited Vampire Weekend in the studio where they were toiling away on their new album, they kept using one phrase to describe the songs they had written: "extremes of vibe."
At the time, we sort of chalked it up to too much time spent in a dark space — the studio, dubbed "Tree Fort," is located in a cramped storage facility near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — but with each passing month, and with each new song they revealed (the plinky "Horchata," the placid "White Sky," the punky "Cousins") we slowly began to understand what they meant. Their album (which they eventually dubbed Contra) packed an awful lot into just 30-odd minutes: careening guitars, chipper keys, downright dubby low-end, plus handclaps, bells, whistles and even an Auto-Tuned vocal or two. And it was all intentional.
So, in November — when we sat down with VW once again — we asked them about the variety of timbres and tempos they've crammed into Contra, an album that rolls up the clam-diggers and just goes.
"We do cover a lot of ground on it, and that's the challenge. Because I really don't like records where it's the same sounds and the same tempos and the same vibe for every song — it just seems kind of pointless," VW frontman Ezra Koenig said. "All the records that I've ever really loved are the ones where they cover a lot of ground. So how do you do that and still make it feel like one album? That's what we tried to do with Contra."
Did they pull it off? Well, you can judge for yourself: On Tuesday — though Contra doesn't hit stores until next week — Vampire Weekend put the entire album up for stream on their MySpace page. And since you've probably already had a listen or two by now, we figured this was a perfect time to roll out our Vampire Weekend track-by-track ... it's sort of like a director's commentary on Contra, the album as they see it.
From discussions about where to get the best horchata to VW's attempt at making a "fourth-wave ska song," it's all here, and all in their own words. Take a look, then take another listen to the truly excellent, truly ambitious Contra.