Vampire Weekend’s Contra doesn’t hit stores until Tuesday, but it’s already streaming on the band’s Web site. So we figured now was the perfect time to unveil their super-secret [url id="http://www.mtv.com/music/unplugged/"]“MTV Unplugged,”[/url] which features the preppy quartet at their stripped-down best (the music, we mean — they’re still dressed to the nines).
Filmed in New York back in July — when VW were still putting the finishing touches on Contra — “Unplugged” features them working their way through a handful of songs from the new record (“White Sky,” “Run,” “Cousins”) back when they were still in their infancy, plus three of their best-known hits (“A-Punk,” “Oxford Comma,” “M79″).
Backed by a six-piece strings-and-woodwind ensemble, the tunes take on a new life. The barrel-rolling guitars and drums of “Cousins” are given added urgency with the addition of trilling strings, “Oxford Comma” now builds to a chamber-pop crescendo, and “A-Punk” floats on a bed of flutes.
For a band best known for their electric influences — the jittery guitar lines, the pogo-ing keyboards — Vampire Weekend seem surprisingly at home in the unplugged world. Ezra Koenig’s acoustic is as bright and shiny as any wired guitar, and Rostam Batmanglij swaps out his keyboard for an upright piano and doesn’t skip a beat.
Vampire Weekend will hit the road in support of Contra starting next week, with sold-out shows in Los Angeles and New York, then a full schedule of U.K. and European dates the following month. They’ll return to the States for a run of gigs in March and April. MTV2 will air the “Unplugged” performance Saturday at 1:30 a.m., then “AMTV” will begin airing “Cousins (Unplugged)” starting 6 a.m. Monday.