Vampire Weekend, Contra
Official release date: January 12
The Verdict: A word about Vampire Weekend's growing African-music influence: If 2008's Vampire Weekend was written by Ezra Koenig in a Columbia dorm room while listening to Paul Simon's Graceland, then the band's new album sounds like it was composed in a mud hut with the Invictus soundtrack on the stereo. Even on the low-quality version of Contra that hit file-sharing sites today (presumably ripped from VW's MySpace page), it's possible to be overwhelmed by the xylophones, hand percussion, and half-chanted backup vocals crammed into a bunch of tracks whose yelped melodies are, thankfully, strong enough to cut through the racket. But at least three quarters of these choruses sound like they could be the earworms that Vampire Weekend's better ones were (already we love "White Sky," "California English," and "Run"), so we're mostly okay with all that.