fotb album

Courtesy of Sony Music

May 7, 2019

TEST SPIN | Vampire Weekend — ‘Father of the Bride’

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When I listen to Vampire Weekend, I feel like I’m walking through the perfectly symmetrical, pastel furnished world of Wes Anderson. The sounds the band creates are subdued yet electric, quirky yet sophisticated, from classics like “A-Punk” all the way to deep track favorites like “Hannah Hunt.” The band’s music sounds the way sherbert ice cream tastes: refreshing, tangy and just really good.

The New York City, now Los Angeles, based band’s long-awaited fourth album, Father of the Bride, fulfills all my wildest dreams in ways I was not expecting. Instead of the punky, preppy and baby-faced boy geniuses I hear when I listen to the band’s old albums such as Vampire Weekend and Contra, Ezra Koenig and friends have clearly matured into the older, more distinguished generation of indie pop. Gone are the days of the 1980s frat boy aesthetic of ironic diddies about elite college drama and tumultuous social debates, such as that over the use of the Oxford comma. In this new album, Vampire Weekend has proven its capabilities of not conforming to typecasts. While there are some songs on the album that sound like the Vampire Weekend we know and love, there are many that break the mold with the only recognizable characteristic being Koenig’s distinctive voice.

Father of the Bride is a game-changer, not necessarily for the fate of the music industry, but for the band itself. The sounds the band employ on its fourth album move away from its love of tiki-tropical vibes and staccato bass guitar and instead gravitate toward a more wholesome, experimental sound on which I cannot seem to put my finger. The songs are larger, heartier and more grandiose than the quippy, manic and ever-entertaining ones found in Vampire Weekend’s older discography.

The album’s first single, “Harmony Hall,” drew me back into my love for Vampire Weekend. The song is positive and safe; it follows a predictable rhythm and melody. In execution, it sounds like a beautiful marriage between the more mature Vampire Weekend and subtle hints of Paul Simon’s albums, Rhythm of the Saints and Graceland. The fascinating part about Father of the Bride is that it makes clear what musical icons have influenced the band’s sound. One could look at the album as an homage to Paul Simon (“Harmony Hall” and “Rich Man”), Jimi Hendrix (“Sunflower (feat. Steve Lacy)”) and Lou Reed (“Unbearably White”), just to name a few.

My personal favorite song on the album is “How Long?” It is the most classically Vampire Weekend — and sonically pleasing — song on the new album. It incorporates archetypally sardonic lyrics like “Why’s it felt like Halloween since Christmas 2017,” a mainstay for the writers of songs like “Oxford Comma” and “Obvious Bicycle.” The song is matched with a melody underlined by a deep bass riff, subtle groove and strategically placed “la la la’s,” all garnished with cartoon sound effects that make me realize that the audience may be taking the band’s music more seriously than the band itself.

This realization is made evident at the very beginning of “Sympathy,” in which Ezra Koenig is heard saying, sans melodic accompaniment, “I think I take myself too serious, it’s not that serious.” After hearing this, I took a step back and ceased my attempts to unearth a deeper meaning behind the band’s tonal shift. The self-awareness comes in response to their niche — though substantial — popularity within the self-proclaimed manic-pixie dream-girl community. Vampire Weekend takes long breaks between album releases, which hints at their tendency towards quality over quantity. They certainly delivered on the quality front, as this is a very enjoyable and beautiful album.

That being said, not all songs can be winners. “Married in a Goldrush” and “We Belong Together,” both of which feature Danielle Haim, have a boring, saccharine melody that made me think that Koenig was attempting to segue into writing children’s music. “Sympathy” serves some Mexican, troubadour vibes in all its cacophonous glory, while “Sunflower” employs a scat-riff session that just entirely misses the mark. However, these songs were not bad enough to tarnish my listening experience.

Father of the Bride is a fun and at times challenging album to listen to, but it is well suited for a slow walk to class. No song melds perfectly into the other, so it will keep you on your toes throughout its one hour and five minute run time. You will encounter an artful amalgamation of elegant, Eastern violins played over the Gaelic sounds heard on St. Patrick’s day in one song, and in another, music from a full brass band compiled with the sexy, noir sounds similar to those “chill lo-fi hip hop” playlists that are invading our Spotify and Youtube feeds.

Vampire Weekend’s fourth album may not be everyone’s favorite. Father of the Bride is an interesting love letter to musical innovation and the band’s tendency to challenge the status quo of the ubiquitous bubblegum pop that is terrorizing our AirPods.

Madeline Rutowski is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached mjr444@cornell.edu.