Album Review: Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

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Fans of Vampire Weekend have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the band’s fourth album since their hiatus began in 2014, after the release of ‘Modern Vampires in the City’. Vampire Weekend has always been a band very close to my heart, having been a fan for nearly half of my life (since the release of ‘Contra’ in 2010),Ezra Koenig’s dulcet tones have served as a massive part of the soundtrack for my journey into adulthood – I have been extremely excited about this album.

It’s safe to say that ‘Father of the Bride’ was well worth the wait. Through the lyrics and general energy of the album, it is clear to see that Koenig and his fellow band members have grown over their hiatus, both personally and creatively. The band has literally changed too, the departure of Rostam Batmanglij is very clear, and it sometimes feels as if it is missing his musical spin – leaving the album more of Ezra Koenig’s personal project. It is more of an ‘adult’ album, exploring issues of relationships and finding stability after years of uncertainty, as well as deep undertones of anger towards the current political climate of America. The songs have more of a laid-back and confident vibe as opposed to the more energetic and unstable energy that comes with navigating life as a 20-something-year-old that previous albums have held.

The Album opens with ‘Hold you Now’, a tender duet between Ezra Koenig and Danielle Haim that really demonstrates Koenig’s navigation of his life of newfound stability and the duality between this and the absolute chaos of current politics – ‘Why’s your heart grown heavy boy, when things were feeling light / … I can’t carry you forever, but I can hold you now’. This is a strong opener for the album as it sets a precedent for the new sound of Vampire Weekend but is still deep and insightful like previous albums. This energy is carried through into ‘Harmony Hall’, one of the first singles released. This song feels like summer, it really calls back to the sunny energy of ‘Contra’, particularly with the energetic piano riff. The lyric ‘I don’t wanna live like this / but I don’t wanna die’ is a beautiful reference to their song ‘Finger Back’, but also demonstrates their change in attitude – in ‘Finger Back’, the lyric feels full of fear and instability, Koenig is unsure as to where his life will lead. However, in ‘Harmony Hall’ the lyric changes to more of a hopeful message – he has found a purpose to his life, and even though he feels uncomfortable in his stability while others are living in such disarray, he doesn’t want to lose this new life either.

Some of my favourite tracks on the album are Harmony Hall, Unbearably White and Stranger. Unbearably White has a dual meaning – the lyrics describe a relationship falling apart, which really resonated with me, but also it is a discussion on the overwhelming whiteness of the music industry, the repetition of ‘unbearably white’ almost serves as a call to arms for artists and producers to get more people of colour involved in the scene. Stranger is a reflection on the current political climate – ‘things have never been stranger’ – and also about finding solidarity and acceptance among those you love, yet still finding this new belonging a bit jarring. This song felt really relevant for my personal life at the moment as it resonated with me finding comfort in myself and creating a support network of bad-ass women and queer people for the first time in my life.

‘Father of the Bride’ is a wonderful, if not self-indulgent album. Some of the tracks felt a little bit like filler for Koenig to demonstrate his talents, the album played for just a little too long. However, overall it is worth the 18 track journey for the revitalised energy of the music and the chance to hear Koenig’s beautiful ramblings again. I just hope it isn’t another six years until they release a new album.

[Chris Timmins – he/him – @_plantbot]

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