May 3, 2019 Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride (Album Review)
Vampire Weekend took six years to follow-up its last album, 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City; but the result is worth the wait! The members never lost their grip and edge in the matter of wearing their influences on their sleeves. Formed in 2006, in New York, United States, Vampire Weekend shot to Indie popularity with unique songs such as “Mansard Roof,” “Oxford Comma,” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” combining Indie Rock with Worldbeat sound—something that does not come around frequently.
Currently comprised by Ezra Koenig (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Chris Tomson (drums, percussion, backing vocals), and Chris Baio (bass, backing vocals), Vampire Weekend has released four studio albums—from 2008’s self-titled debut to the newly unleashed Father of the Bride. With its diverse influences, the band was able to make for itself an easily identifiable niche in the Alternative/Indie music scene—alongside batchmates and aural peers like The Wombats (“Little Miss Pipedream”), Radio Dept. (“The Worst Taste in Music”), Ra Ra Riot (“St. Peter’s Day Festival”), and Beirut (“Scenic World”).
Released on May 3, 2019, on Spring Snow/Columbia Records, Vampire Weekend’s latest, 18-track offering is obviously an ambitious effort. Titled Father of the Bride, it retains the intelligent and compelling character of its music—sonically catchy yet lyrically and stylistically quirky at the same time. It opens with the bluesy Pastoral Folk “Hold You Now,” featuring on second vocals Danielle Haim of the American band Haim (“Don’t Save Me”). The carrier single “Harmony Hall” then undulates and pulsates next, exuding a Country Soul sensibility. Still in the same rustic mood, the Tropical/Rumba-flavored “Bambina” and “This Life,” however, are playful and dramatic, alluding to Vampire Weekend’s trademark quirkiness.
Slowing the ambiance a bit, Vampire Weekend then launches with the countryside Blues of “Big Blue.” Following next are the minimalist and jazzy “How Long?” and “Unbearably White,” whose angular guitars and punchy bass lines meld together well. “Rich Man” then returns the listener to the album’s folky predisposition. Another Haim-duet track, “Married in a Gold Rush” is one of the album’s highlights—cutesy with its hint of Reggae rhythm and string ornamentation. Then there is the ’50s-style Traditional Pop ballad “My Mistake,” which is then followed by the progressive and cinematic flare of “Sympathy.”
Featuring the American Artist Steve Lacy, “Sunflower” and “Flower Moon” are more in congruence with Vampire Weekend’s early songs—unpredictable and eclectic—mixing various influences that include Hip-Hop, R-n-B, Funk, and Latin Pop. A breath of fresh but familiar breeze, “2021” is Father of the Bride’s other lead single, which is built around a sample of the Ambient track “Talking” by the Japanese musician Haruomi Hosono; it stands out with its glassy celesta melody and a bit sampled vocal part by the American Artist Jenny Lewis (“Rabbit Hole”).
“We Belong Together,” again featuring Haim on vocals, is another standout track that oozes with Progressive Pop sensibilities, owing to the ornate instrumentation and complex arrangement. Albeit less intricate, “Stranger” follows in a similarly upbeat, sunny, and tropical sound. By this part, the listener will have forgotten that he is still listening to the Vampire Weekend of old—which has truly progressed in its musicality, expanding its palette to positive results. Another engaging track plays next in the form of “Spring Snow”—relaxing with its steady beat, soulful piano, and fluid synth melodies.
Finally, Koenig, Tomson, and Chris Baio—otherwise Vampire Weekend—close their latest, grand effort with the sonically picturesque and heartrending piano-oriented ballad “Jerusalem, New York, and Berlin,” which resonates faint echoes of Bruce Hornsby & the Range (“The Way It Is”) and Annie Lennox (“Walking on Broken Glass”).
To the uninitiated, Father of the Bride may sound like a big departure from Vampire Weekend’s style of music—what with the diversity of styles and sounds employed by the trio in collaboration with the slew of co-producers whom included Chromeo, Former Bandmate/Multi-Instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij, and BloodPop. However, listening again to the band’s previous albums, one will realize that their penchant for a mélange of styles has always been the foundation of their music. Father of the Bride is simply a further progression of this musical journey. Cryptic Rock gives Father of the Bride 5 out of 5 stars.