Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City

(XL ***1/2

nolead ends Good songs win out in the end, and Vampire Weekend has plenty of those. The New York foursome fronted by Ezra Koenig has been simultaneously celebrated and denigrated since even before the release of their self-titled debut album, which generated loads of blog buzz - and just about as much backlash - in 2008. Sure, these guys had lots of catchy tunes that cleverly used Graceland- era Paul Simon as a point of departure, but weren't they just a bunch of spoiled Upper West Side kids who went to Columbia and sang about their vacations on Cape Cod?

The band's second album, Contra, was perfectly solid as well. But on Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend really distinguishes itself with sharp, smart, grownup, terrifically energetic tunes that are still clever, but never merely so. The first tip-off is the single "Diane Young," whose punning title hints at the intimations of mortality that apparently haunt the boys in the band as they get ready to turn 30. "Wisdom's a gift, but you trade it for youth," Koenig sings in "Step," one of many songs that stand out, thanks in no small part to crafty arrangements that showcase keyboard player Rostam Batmanglij. "Age is an honor, but it's still not the truth." You could go on nitpicking the band and resenting their privileged beginnings, but you'd only be cheating yourself.

- Dan DeLuca

nolead begins Eve
nolead ends nolead begins Lip Lock
nolead ends nolead begins (FTR ***)

nolead ends Has it really been 11 years since the last Eve album? Indeed it has. The 34-year-old Philadelphia rapper, born Eve Jihan Jeffers, put music aside for acting for a time in the mid-'00s, and a planned 2007 return got mired in record company drama and was never released. Lip Lock does a respectable job of repositioning the former "pit bull in a skirt" and female mouthpiece of DMX's Ruff Ryders in a transformed hip-hop landscape.

Tough-as-nails declarations that E-V-E is not to be messed with include the booming opener "Eve," as well as "Wanna Be," a stutter-step attack that features Missy Elliott. "Wanna Be" is one of many cuts demonstrating that Eve's rhyme-spitting skills have not diminished. Production help comes from old associates like Swizz Beatz, and the former Snoop Dogg funks up "Mama In The Kitchen." There are dashes of reggae dancehall here and there, and uplifting pop moves like the lightweight "Make It Out of This Town," with Gabe Saporta of Cobra Starship. More successful in that hortatory vein is "Never Gone," with a hook sung by Chrisette Michele, which finds our heroine owning up to the uncertainty that comes with age ("I ain't got the answers or the plan/ Me, I'm trying to figure out, to understand") while asserting her continued supremacy.

- Dan DeLuca

nolead begins Fantasia
nolead ends nolead begins Side Effects of You
nolead ends nolead begins (19 Recordings/RCA ***1/2)

nolead ends As American Idol loses a little more luster (and ratings) each week, it's good to know its most soulful winner is going strong. Fantasia Barrino won the 2004 Idol competition and from there became the first artist in Billboard's Hot 100 chart history to debut at No. 1, which she did with "I Believe." Last week, Fantasia's sassy fourth album, Side Effects of You, debuted atop Billboard's R&B Albums chart and at No. 2 in the Top 200 Albums. Say what you want about Idol, but it can produce hitmakers. Have The Voice's victors made any good records, let alone sold any?

Fantasia cowrote most of Side Effects. She shows command of audience expectations and control over her highly personal sound. The curt reggae/blues of "Ain't All Bad," the dramatic "Without Me" (with Missy Elliot and Kelly Rowland), and the elegant "End of Me" are stirring. She's a strong singer, but no howler, preferring a simmering reserve. She manages some clever sampling on "Lose to Win" and "Change Your Mind," selecting bits from the Commodores and Whitney Houston while making them her own.

- A.D. Amorosi

New Recordings

Top Albums in the Region

This Week Last Week

Locally   Nationally   Locally

1   1    Kenny Chesney Life on a Rock   -

2   2    Michael Buble To Be Loved   1

3   3    Justin Timberlake 20/20 Experience   3

4   4    Fantasia Side Effects of You   2

5   5    Macklemore & Ryan Lewis The Heist   9

6   7    P!nk Truth About Love   7

7   15    Him Tears on Tape    -

7 tie   10    Imagine Dragons Night Visions   14

9   11    Fall Out Boy Save Rock & Roll   5

10   8    Bruno Mars Unorthodox Jukebox   11

SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 5/18/13 © 2013

New Recordings

In Stores Tuesday

George Strait,  

Love Is Everything;

Amy Grant, How

Mercy Looks from Here;

Demi Lovato, Demi;

Laura Mvula,

Sing to the Moon