Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig wants you to forget everything he’s said about the band’s new album, ‘Father Of The Bride’. “I usually regret everything I say cuz it turns out to be wrong (so disregard anything I may have said in the past 5 years)” he said in last week’s announcement that the band’s first album in nearly six years was finished.
There’s been plenty to feast on in terms of details if you’ve been playing close attention. Speaking to Pitchfork in 2017, to coincide with the release of his Netflix anime show, Neo Yokio, he said that “this next album is pushing in a lot of different directions.” It was also announced that Rostam Batmanglij, the producer of the band’s first three albums, was leaving the band, but would still be working with the band occasionally. Koenig’s also been in the studio with some big names. In 2016 he landed a writing credit on Beyoncé’s last solo album, ‘Lemonade’, and said that creative spirit of Kanye West “rubbed off on him” after the pair spent time in the studio together.
But while he’s kindly asking that you enter this new era unshackled from five-years of misleading pull quotes, it’s clear that he’s actually been incredibly forthcoming about where ‘Father Of The Bride’ takes the band. New songs ‘2021’ and ‘Harmony Hall’ prove that the ‘clues’ have been hiding in plain sight.
‘2021’, the first song, is indeed familiar but fits into the idea that this album is certainly a different beast. It shuffles along at a similar pace to ‘Obvious Bicycle’, the opener from their last album ‘Modern Vampires of The City‘ and is just as soothing, but this sub-2 minute track is far more immediate. Laced with subtle piano work, a repeated sample yelping ‘BOY’ and some frantic hi-hat work as Koenig croons about the year 2021, “where we think about me/I can wait a year but I couldn’t wait three,” it is an understated, but oddly addictive teaser.
Further hints by Ezra (soz mate, we’re picking apart your quotes like you said not to do) tell the prophecy of the jaunty ‘Harmony Hall’, which features additional production from Rostam. As promised, it is “a lil more springtime” than anything on ‘Modern Vampires…’ but retains that paranoid edge for which they made their name on their self-titled album and its follow-up, ‘Contra’. Opening with a squiffy guitar loop, then building to incorporate piano chords you’d expect to hear on Primal Scream’s rave classic ‘Screamdelica’, Ezra finds himself in uncertain circumstances: “I thought I was free from all that questioning, but every time a problem ends another one begins” before admitting that he “doesn’t want to live like this, but I don’t wanna die”.
There’s no reinventing the wheel here, and quite frankly, right now, that can only be a good thing. As intriguing as it is to imagine the prospect of a whackier, experimental return, Vampire Weekend’s return is entirely predictable. But that doesn’t stop it being a welcome and satisfying return from one of indie’s most beloved and wacky troupes.