“I Think UR a Contra,” which closed out Vampire Weekend’s last album, 2010’s “Contra,” revealed a side most people didn’t associate with the New York indie-rock band: tenderness. Looking back, it’s clear that song, which struck a particularly elegiac note, was the first sign of what to expect on “Modern Vampires of the City,” the quartet’s strong new third album that marks a huge leap forward.
Showing a maturity in both the songwriting and musical ideas, it’s the rare third record that abandons what came before it. Gone are the frenetic African guitar influences and hyper wordplay that made Vampire Weekend so beloved with the college set. Now there’s an expansiveness in the music, borne out of a confidence that allows the songs to unfurl rather than rebound like pinballs.
Frontman Ezra Koenig, who sings lead and writes the songs, has mentioned in interviews that he sees “Modern Vampires of the City” as the final installment of a trilogy. Where the quintet’s self-titled debut was a free-for-all through collegiate adventures, “Contra” was about discovery and worldly pleasures.
This time around, Koenig hints that life isn’t as freewheeling as he had previously thought. Even though much of the album is upbeat, there’s a sense of self-awareness that he’s getting older: “There’s a tombstone right in front of you,” he sings on “Don’t Lie.” That realization gives the music a welcome urgency and suggests this is the album for naysayers who dismissed Vampire Weekend as one-note guilty pleasures. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Don’t Lie”
Vampire Weekend performs at Agganis Arena on Wednesday.