Exit Clov’s debut album is preceded by several EPs – 2006’s “Jolly Roget Sessions” in particular has garnered them much acclaim in the indie world, landing them spots on major festival tours such as SXSW and the All Good Music Festival.
The five-piece band fronted by the Hsu twins, Emily and Susan, hails from D.C. and will win the hearts of any politically minded electropop or indie rock lover. Borrowing their name from Samuel Beckett’s classic one-act “Endgame,” the group’s sound is a mix of standard indie pop with Blondie-like undertones. Their melodies are sweet and eerily hypnotizing: think Camera Obscura meets Tegan and Sara. “Memento Mori” is a fun, easy listen, but more of an iTunes buy; a few songs on your iPod should do the trick.
While the members of Vampire Weekend have not let the bubbly Afro pop of their debut album shackle them, they have made no visible attempt to shed Paul Simon’s heavy influence. Instead, the group has reached an overall pleasing compromise: Simon’s iconic album “Graceland” doesn’t plague “Contra” as much as it playfully haunts it.
“Contra” explores new territory within the first few seconds, with the group’s signature sound mingling with more contemporary influences: Singer Ezra Koenig’s falsetto chirps in the “White Sky” chorus are vaguely reminiscent of Animal Collective.
The album slows considerably by “Taxi Cab,” however, and opts for more formulaic sounds. On “Giving Up The Gun,” VW foregoes the bold approach that characterizes the album’s first half, and instead dabbles in electro-indie pop that doesn’t quite match the innovative sound of earlier tracks. Still, the album’s final song, “I Think Ur A Contra,” is a sleepy, well-crafted gem; Koenig’s delicate vocals and faint but memorable piano line close out “Contra” in a successful, peaceful way.
Surprisingly, the biggest flaw with “Contra” isn’t that VW has dwelt too long in Graceland; it’s that the group backed down from its burgeoning hybrid sound. If they had stayed the course, at least they would have still been with Simon in spirit, and perhaps solidified a “Graceland” of their own.