After six years of anticipation, Vampire Weekend finally released their fourth studio album, Father of the Bride, on Friday 3 May.
In the time since Modern Vampires of the City hit the shelves back in May 2013, lead singer Ezra Koenig has created his own Netflix series featuring Jaden Smith and Jude Law, begun hosting a radio show on Beats 1, collaborated on tracks with Major Lazer and SBTRKT, and even contributed a cute little song for the 2018 Peter Rabbit film. Oh, and he’s also moved to Los Angeles and had his first child with long-term girlfriend Rashida Jones. It’s fair to say he’s been busy.
When Koenig finally returned to resume playing with Vampire Weekend again in summer 2018, his band looked quite different. Drummer Chris Tomson and bassist Chris Baio remained as full members, having each released solo albums themselves during the hiatus. However multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij had left to pursue his own solo work. A number of session musicians had joined the touring line-up though, and in the studio the group were joined by the likes of Danielle Haim and Steve Lacy to collaborate on new tracks.
All these changes, influences and inputs have unsurprisingly led to Vampire Weekend’s most eclectic album yet. Weighing in at 18 songs and lasting almost an hour, FOTB is a far chunkier LP than the band’s first three, and thematically it jumps about a bit more too.
Danielle Haim’s influence on opener ‘Hold You Now’, ‘Married in a Gold Rush’ and the breezy duet ‘We Belong Together’ feels refreshingly country. Elsewhere, Steve Lacy leaves his mark on the far funkier ‘Sunflower’, perhaps the most danceable Vampire Weekend track to date, and its sister song ‘Flower Moon’.
Vampire Weekend have matured with each studio album, and it’s no surprise that their biggest gap between records has also resulted in the greatest leap in maturity, both musically and lyrically. Although MVOTC was darker and more reflective than the innocence of Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut and sophomore release Contra, there is an even more contemplative feel to FOTB at times. Koenig seems to ponder life choices, decisions and the future, not least on the slower ‘Big Blue’ (“So am I learning my lesson? / Or am I back on my own?”) and ‘2021’ (“2021, will you think about us? / Copper goes green, steel beams go rust”).
The band haven’t abandoned their roots completely though. ‘This Life’ is full of youthful vitality despite its ruminative lyrics, while ‘Harmony Hall’ is perhaps the most traditionally Vampire Weekend of the singles – and that’s not just because it reuses a line from MVOTC’s ‘Finger Back’ (“I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die”). Its catchy guitar hooks and typically cryptic lyrics hark back to some of the band’s earliest releases.
Koenig and Vampire Weekend have certainly been building their own hype for FOTB for a while, but they’ve absolutely lived up to it. Although there isn’t a singular theme to the record, and some of the transitions feel a tad jarring, something about the broad spectrum just works. FOTB has shown the band experiment more than they ever have done before and delivered some big singles in the process. It’s a fine addition to the Vampire Weekend’s catalogue and feels like a promising beginning to an exciting new chapter for the band.
4 stars out of 5