Ezra Koenig and co return with a brand new album after 6 years with their most unusual outing to date
Vampire Weekend finally released their long awaited 4th studio album last week on May 3rd. It’s been a long 6 years since their last outing, the critically lauded “Modern Vampires of the City”, so how does this newest outing stack up? Does it meet expectations or does it fall flat on its face? The short answer is no, it does not fall on its face. The longer answer is that this album breaks the mould for the New York rockers, it is vastly different to what they have done before, whilst still maintaining the level of vibrancy of its predecessors. It’s very much still a Vampire Weekend album, but, it is also so much more than that. They have taken their sound and progressed it ever so slightly so that it doesn’t feel stale or old, its quite an accomplishment to bounce back after 6 years of waiting and creating a record as solid as this.
And what a record it is, I mean that in terms of tracks. The album being 18 tracks in length and clocking in at a 57 minute runtime, the album is a beast for sure. The band this time deciding to tackle the double album and it pays off. The 18 tracks take us through an encyclopaedic journey with a springtime vibe. The album opens with the mellow “Hold you now”, its quite a somber opening but it’s a perfect taste of what’s in store. The track features the first of many features from Danielle Haim of Haim fame and she adds a nice change to the track with her relatively unique vocals. The track also features the backing of choir vocals that meets the feel of marriage or ‘church’ vibe, as suggested by the albums title “Father of the Bride”. If anything the album certainly keeps to its themes throughout the album, never straying too far from its narrative path.
Next we get into “Harmony Hall”, the first single released from the album and it’s easily one of the best cuts on the entire record. In my initial review of it I said that it feels like a classic VW tune with a blissful guitar melody, a groovy piano led chorus with Koenig’s easily recognisable vocals. Since my first listening the track has only grew on me with its irresistible guitar licks and summery vibe, its ended up being one of my most listened to tracks of the year so far. The other track released along side it “2021” is a bit of a shorted cut compared to the 5 minute long Harmony Hall and to be honest its not a track I’ve given much time to. It’s an alright cut, but, if anything it feels more like a mere interlude and it isn’t a track I’ll be making my way back too anytime soon.
Another one of the weaker cuts on this album is “Sunflower” featuring Steve Lacey, I also reviewed this track separately as it was the second single to be released prior to the record. In my review I noted that the track has a fairly classic, 70s rock vibe and that is helped in part by Lacey’s feature. The strongest part of this cut is definitely Lacey input, giving it a funky feel. It certainly doesn’t sound like anything the band have put out before and whilst its good the band are pushing outside of their comfort zone it doesn’t quite pay off entirely here. It’s certainly one of the groups weirder outings and I wouldn’t say it’s certainly not as strong as the albums first single, but, it is a decent one none the less. This single was followed up by “Big Blue” which features these nice almost detuned, floaty guitar hooks and Koenig’s recognisable vocalism. It’s another fairly short in the vein of “2021”, buts its stronger as it feels like more of an actual song.
Steve Lacey features on 1 other track and that is “Flower Moon”, again Lacey’s input adds a nice funky groove to the overall tone of the song and even features Lacey doing some vocals which adds a nice change to the track. I prefer this to “Sunflower”, mainly because Koenig’s vocals are more recognisable. The instrumentation is nice too, it feels fairly disarrayed, but, it works well on the whole. Another one of the my favourites from the album is “This Life”, another one of my most played tracks and probably on par with “Harmony Hall” to be my favourite. The instrumentation feels like classic Vampire Weekend and lyrically its great too telling a great story with this vibrant instrumental flair. Arguably, it is one of their best tracks to date. Finishing off with “Sympathy” another standout, which features this fast paced, almost galloping melody and a punchy vocal delivery from Koenig with these almost operatic interjections adding an elemental twist in the tracks progression. It’s very nice.
Overall its a great outing, it features some of their best work to date with only a few duds on this 18 track album. It’s certainly worth a listen and I can’t wait to see them live later this year when the headline Ally Pally on the 13th of November.