"Contra" (2010) by Vampire Weekend

I’ll start off by admitting that I am one of the very few that really didn’t like Vampire Weekend’s first album. It was bland, generic and boring. But their second effort, which gained major brownie points from me from the beginning by paying homage to the classic NES game with its title, sees Vampire Weekend step up and make something definitely worth listening to.

On the outside, it’s everything I expected from a Vampire Weekend album. Influence from all around the world, weird melodies, the whole works. But there’s no lame, seemingly-inside-jokes like “Blake’s Got A New Face” from the first album, and on this one every song doesn’t sound the same, which gave me a pleasant surprise. In the first album, they had all these ideas, but it seemed as though they were a jack of all trades but master of none. Now they’ve finally mastered something. I don’t know how they did it, but everything seems tighter and it’s at just the perfect level of kooky for them; the last album just didn’t have the same touch.

I don’t think they did it on purpose, and seeing as no one else picked up I think I made it up, but it seems to me as something changed between this album and their first. Not sure if they did it intentionally, but to me, something’s different. And that’s a very, very good thing.

Choice tracks: Horchata; Run; Cousins; Diplomat’s Son; I Think Ur A Contra

"Sigh No More" (2009) by Mumford & Sons

Everyone else is talking about it, so why can’t I? First off, I have to applaud Mumfy and his sons for introducing the banjo into pop music, not many groups are capable of such an immense feat.

Mumford and Sons are a folk group, to the genre’s roots. This is what folk music is. So I’m still fucking (I’m allowed to say that word, right? They said it) amazed that such a group achieved such huge commercial popularity. Say what you want, Triple J-listeners, you count as commercial too.

This record is full of epic vocal chants, banjo, drums being played by the singer/guitarist, banjo, breakdowns, banjo, banjo, and banjo. No, there isn’t more banjo than anything else, it just stands out so much because we’re so not used to hearing banjo in a popular record. I don’t mean to insult them but, however much banjo they seem to use, it’s still a decent folk record. There are some especially lovely tracks, such as the huge-mega-single “Little Lion Man” and “Gave You All”.

The melodies are sweet, the beats are rocking and heavy. Yes, there are ‘beats’, even if it’s not a hip hop album. Get over it. In the end, Sigh No More is a necessity if you like other recent folk acts like Laura Marling and Noah & The Whale. And banjo.

Choice tracks: Little Lion Man; Gave You All; Thistle And Weeds; The Cave