Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride
Vampire Weekend is in a much different place than they were six years ago when they recorded their masterful Modern Vampires of the City, a deeply questioning album that showcased the preppy indie rockers at a new level of musical and lyrical sophistication. Since then, Rostam Batmanglij, responsible for much of the production and arrangement on Vampire Weekend’s first three albums, departed to pursue his solo career. Primary songwriter Ezra Koenig has undergone much personal change as well. For one, the New Yorker relocated to LA, and most prominently he became a father.
The musical transformation is also readily apparent. Whereas their previous record was a meticulously crafted, sprawling achievement packed with existential anxiety and pondering, Father of the Bride is a loose collection of sun-tinted vignettes. In 2013, Vampire Weekend were swimming through the uncertainties of their late twenties. But in 2019, Ezra has settled down and has seemed to find a level of contentment and maturity. And in that way, Father of the Bride is a much more logical sequel to Modern Vampires of the City than many are giving it credit for. Heard on this record is a very new, very honest version of Vampire Weekend that doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of sincerity.
Father of the Bride is not a perfect album. Of its 18 tracks, some are more forgettable than others. But within this tracklist, listneres will also find some of the finest work Koenig has ever put his stamp on. “Harmony Hall,” the album’s lead single, features a rollicking, Paul Simon-esque guitar intro, springy piano, and baroque pop touches. It’s a sunny pop tune that is deceptively cynical in its lyrics. Vintage Vampire Weekend. Ezra sings of political unrest and the disingenuous motivations put behind the masks of charity and goodwill.
“Rich Man” is a tongue in cheek observation of wealth disparity in America. Vampire Weekend come from a privileged, Ivy League background, the subject of many thinkpieces, some more fair than others. But Vampire Weekend has always been keenly self-aware of their comfortable origins and they approach it with an admirable amount of humility and wit. This tune seems to serve as a loose response to the naysayers. Where Ezra is very much understands his economic background, he also has thought a lot about what it means to be a Jewish American. On the records’ best song “Sympathy”, Vampire Weekend address a long history of conflict between differing religious groups. Flamenco guitar meshes with clashing drums, icy programming, and a ghostly chorus. “This Life”, a bright 70’s style pop tune in the vein of Fleetwood Mac and Van Morrison, shines with Ezra’s signature narrative capabilities.
Outside collaboration is new for Vampire Weekend as they enlist the vocal help of Danielle Haim on a hefty number of tracks, some of which play out as true duets. Steve Lacy, guitarist from The Internet, adds some eccentric touches of psychedlia on “Sunflower” and Flower Moon.”
While much of Vampire Weekends genre explorations very much work, some attempts at musical diversity are a bit more cumbersome. The crooning attempt on “My Mistake” fails to land any sort of lasting impact. The bubbly “We Belong Together” is far too sentimental for its own good - the elementary rhyme schemes are absolutely jarring from a lyricist whose known for his rich metaphors.
Father of the Bride is a flawed album, and one that lacks the essential quality that Vampire Weekend’s previous discography holds. But much like The Beatles’ White Album, there is a very human charm in its imperfections. The eclectic collage of Father of the Bride still points towards a searching within Ezra Koenig’s current stage in life. While this latest effort could be pigeonholed as “dad rock”, Vampire Weekend sounds anything but dialed in. Father of the Bride is a solid collection of tunes that in no way point to Ezra Koenig peaking as a songwriter.