These guys constantly seem to surprise me. I was shocked at how much I ended up liking their self titled debut album which got it's quirky sound from infusing African rhythms with pop song structure. "A-Punk" is an irresistible slice of fun and I dare anyone to get "Oxford Comma" out of your head once it's there. Then I fell in love with "Ottoman" off the highly enjoyable "Nick and Norah's Infinate Playlist" Soundtrack. So I was intrigued by their newest effort and jumped at the chance to listen to it when given the opportunity.
"Contra" is a variation on those same musical themes and yet has a new depth and refinement all it's own. The songs want to be playful and in many ways lead singer Ezra Koenig sounds an awful lot like Paul Simon. "Horchata", the lead leaked song could have been taken straight off the last record. "Cousins", the official first single, is a rapid fire guitar attack worthy of Dick Dale and retells the tale of what appears to be a gang war on the verge of breaking out. The whole record whips by at a swinging pace and never really changes the beat until the end with the reggae style "Diplomat's Son" and the string anchored "I Think UR a Contra". The addition of atmospheric keyboards assists the record in giving it enough new flavor for it to be different from the last record. But the best song on the record (and my pick for the one that will be the "hit" off the record) is "Giving Up The Gun" which could have been made THE POLICE in their heyday. It's a sharp piece of pop music and a great driving in the car song. This is a very good record with potential to be something that sets the band up for a real breakthrough as a band to watch very closely.