Just in case you haven’t come across it yet, the first song to surface from Vampire Weekend’s forthcoming “Contra” album (due early January, I believe) turned up on their website yesterday.
You can download “Horchata” for free here, without even bothering to register, and it’s well worth it. When I wrote about Vampire Weekend’s debut album last year, I mentioned the insidious quality of their songs, the nagging way Ezra Koenig’s vocal lines tend to wedge themselves into your memory.
“Horchata” is very much like that, though the skinniness of the debut’s sound has been replaced by a fuller, though no less eccentric sound (and, judging by the fleeting sneak preview I’ve had of “Contra”, it’s typical of the whole album in that respect). The wiry guitars are nowhere to be seen: the closest relative to “Horchata” on “Vampire Weekend” is “M79”, especially when the lush synthesised chamber strings arrive in the latter half of the song.
Three things dominate “Horchata”, though. The brilliant tune, that continually seems to be twisting away from the expected, but remains aggressively memorable. Koenig’s lyrics; eccentric snippets from a lost and vivid text about Mexican winter breaks? Or endearingly aphoristic nonsense? I’m not sure, but this morning, “In December, drinking Horchata/I look psychotic in a balaclava,” seems a preposterously, dorkishly excellent opening couplet.
And a new, enhanced production, that privileges a lively arsenal of electronic percussion: great barrages of drums that recall those big Brazilian samba drum ensembles; clicking, glockenspiel-like effects. Most of all, with the tinny reverb on some of the beats and the sprung, clackety resonance of a recurring sound that resembles thumb-pianos, it suggests that their artful appropriation of African music has now moved on to Congo, and Konono No 1. Have a listen, and let me know what you think.