The Best New Pop Album of the Year, So Far

Media Guy's Pop Pick -- and Giveaway

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A couple years ago, I was part of the backlash to the backlash against an "it" band of the moment, Vampire Weekend. Inspired by my love for the New York quartet's self-titled debut album, a 35-minute collection of song after perfect song of, as I put it at the time, "preppy indie rock with an Afro-pop sensibility," I wrote a column about how a small contingent of bloggers and other critics lamely decided they needed to hate the band seemingly just because it had gotten too hyped. "A hallmark of contemporary cool-kid posturing," I wrote, is "acting like you're so totally immune to the hype machine. Anti-hype -- advertising your aversion to everything hyped -- becomes its own form of hype."

Whatever. My love for Vampire Weekend hasn't dimmed at all in two years -- and now it's suddenly stronger, thanks to the release this week of "Contra," which is truly wonderful and often simply gorgeous, thanks to lush, nearly orchestral production. Music critics generally love this album as much as I do, but my favorite review comes from a non-critic, my old colleague Will Dana, the managing editor of Rolling Stone (I briefly worked at Rolling Stone's parent company, Wenner Media, in an earlier life, and very occasionally did a little editing and writing for RS), who usually concerns himself more with the non-music side of that title. In his 13 years at Rolling Stone, Will's never written a record review -- until now.

It begins: "On their 2008 debut, Vampire Weekend whipped up a new pop formula by fusing Paul Simon's 'Graceland' with the touchstones of preppy ennui -- Cape Cod summers, collegiate grief, crushes on girls with trust funds. The music had a bracing smartness, as overdetermined and detailed as a Wes Anderson movie, almost perfect for what it was, but you wondered how they'd handle the real world. Just fine, it turns out. If 'Vampire Weekend' was 'Rushmore,' 'Contra' is their 'Royal Tenenbaums': brainy, confident and generally awesome."

Read the rest of Will's totally spot-on review here.

Anyway, to celebrate the release of "Contra," I'm randomly giving away two copies (see the fine print below) of the album (in your choice of physical CD or digital download).

THE FINE PRINT: To enter my random drawing for one of two copies of Vampire Weekend's "Contra" in this informal Media Guy's Pop Pick giveaway, send me an e-mail with "Contra" in the subject line on or before Feb. 5 (the cut-off is 12 midnight EST). You must have a valid U.S. mailing address and be 18 or older.

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Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco

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