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Y-Not Philly w/ Josh T. Landow

CD of The Week

Week of 5/06/19

    Vampire Weekend - Father of The Bride (Columbia)

    In the six years between records, much has happened in the Vampire Weekend camp. Frontman Ezra Koenig wrote and collaborated with Beyoncé and Kanye West, launched an animated series on Netflix, and welcomed his first child into the world with his partner, actress Rashida Jones. Bassist Chris Baio saw critical acclaim with the release of two albums and multiple EPs. Drummer Chris Tomson released an album with his side project, Dams of the West. The band also saw the departure of multi-instrumentalist/producer Rostam Batmanglij, who is following his own solo career.

    Vampire Weekend's fourth album, Father of The Bride, ushers in a new era for the group. It's their first release on a major label and shows the maturity the band has reached, both musically and lyrically. On the surface it's a fun album that offers different styles of music - indie rock, jazz, and country, just to name a few. Through its 18 tracks, the group masterfully pairs lighthearted springtime music with lyrics that are often dark and foreboding. Underneath, Koenig writes about the Israel-Palestine conflict, Judeo-Christian relations and their reactions to Islam, and references the works of ancient Roman poets.

    The album opens with "Hold You Now," one of three songs featuring Haim's Danielle Haim. We're treated to the familiar sound of Koenig's tenor vocals atop illustrious guitar noodles. A choir enters singing a Melanesian prayer before Haim enters, as the guitar melody brings the album's first infusion of country twang.

    "Harmony Hall," the lead single from the album, is a song Koenig claims took years to write, growing from a simple baroque melody that's now in the middle of the song. Its main lyric from the chorus, "I don't want to live like this, but I don't want to die," is a callback to the song "Finger Back" from 2013's Modern Vampires of the City, but the gap in time shows the depth of the comment. While Vampire Weekend has typically been an apolitical band, "Harmony Hall" begins the commentary on the current political landscape in the U.S. and the echo chamber that is easy to form. This continues in "How Long?" with a stinging line, "Why's it felt like Halloween since Christmas 2017?"

    The album seamlessly transitions between songs as it continues. "Bambina" sees more religious context as Koenig sings about Christian hearts and thundering arenas. The theme of love, for better or worse, is woven into tracks like "This Life," with a chorus that declares, "You've been cheating on, cheating on me. I've been cheating on, cheating on you." In an interview with Stereogum, Koenig explained that instead of accusations and regret, "There's something I loved about the simplicity of: Damn, we both cheated on each other."

    "Married in a Gold Rush" expresses the regret of moving a relationship along too quickly before any conflicts can truly manifest, while "We Belong Together" shows how two people can be opposite yet complete each other. The group also welcomes guest guitarist/producer Steve Lacy for "Sunflower" and "Flower Moon," showcasing their fluidity while taking cues from other musicians.

    Vampire Weekend began teasing this record back in 2017. Drawing from years of personal experiences and academic research, the project evolved into the highly anticipated album we now have. Its gambles pay off and make it worth the extended wait. Vampire Weekend return to Philadelphia on September 4th at the Mann Center.

    **Donate $15 or more to Y-Not Radio to receive a download of Father of The Bride. Click here for details.

    Review by Dan Baker

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