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Album Review: Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride

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After a six-year silence, some bands would (and perhaps should) consider a comeback a matter of seriousness. Thankfully, however, Vampire Weekend uphold their witty charm with Father of The Bride by not overthinking or overcomplicating their return.

Father of the Bride

Album Art 'Father of the Bride' (2019)

From their early beginnings in 2008, Ezra Koenig and Co. have mastered the art of writing about the obscurity of privileged life as they went from preppy university students to arena-sellouts in what seemed like a heartbeat. Still, there was always a sense of mania and oddness to the group as they moved from a life of studenthood to the reality of their 20s and 30s. In time they became more serious, with their third and last album, Modern Vampires of the City, feeling almost haunted with its eerie, processed sounds.

So whilst Vampire Weekend’s first three albums felt like a trilogy, now we have Father of the Bride – a freer and more playful album that comes after frontman Ezra Koenig relocated to Los Angeles and became a parent, and former member Rostam Batmanglij left the band in favour of solo projects. Nevertheless, the group’s fourth album makes clear that Vampire Weekend still have the familiar fun that has delighted fans for years.

The tracks are accordingly sun-drenched and celebratory, presented almost like a compilation of their sound in an 18-track double album. ‘Harmony Hall’ particularly evokes nostalgia, with a cheery piano that alludes to their previous sound. Koenig sings “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die”, the same lyric that appears on the bombastic quick-fire track ‘Finger Back’ from 2013. Today, however, this song feels like a reintroduction to an old friend as the group have settled into adulthood and embraced their conflicts.

Collaborative energy has guided Father of the Bride’s patchwork vibe. HAIM’s Danielle Haim leads much of the vocal collaborations whilst original member Rostam is credited with production on some tracks alongside Mark Ronson for ‘This Life’ and BloodPop. Whilst some of these presences are minimal, Haim’s voice is notably poignant in creating a trio of songs that forge the course of a doomed wedding in ‘Hold Me Now’ and culminates in ‘We Belong Together’.

In typical Vampire Weekend fashion, Koenig encourages keeping a dictionary on hand as his poetic prowess creates short musical stories. Sometimes, these brief moments are the most enjoyable, as exemplified by the shimmering sub-two-minute track, ‘Bambina’. So, whilst some lyrics occasionally verge on reflecting the uncertainty of the modern world in 2019, Koenig is keen to remind us halfway through the record that the group is consciously cultivating a carefree attitude as he sings, “I think I take myself too serious / I’m not that serious” in ‘Sympathy’ – one of the album's most triumphant and encompassing tracks.

Listening to Father of the Bride 11 years after Vampire Weekend’s debut, it does seem to lack the former restlessness of Contra, the splendour of Modern Vampires and the anxiety of the band as a totality up to this point. Still, there’s something to be admired as the group profoundly ditch their wallflower status. Father of the Bride shows Vampire Weekend in a different territory as they fix their gaze a little wider. Their growth is more musical than it is lyrical as Father posits both a happy-go-lucky and ‘life goes on’ attitude with Koenig's unique mastery in songwriting. There’s an intangible sense of acceptable in these songs, a few of which could be taken away for a more streamlined listen, but overall, Vampire Weekend’s fourth album is a whole load of fun.

Father of the Bride is out now.




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