Nearly six years to the day after dropping the stunning 'Modern Vampires of the City', Ezra Koenig and co. have finally returned with a fourth full length, and it's a double album at that. In those heady – and often embarrassing days – of the post-punk/indie revival, who would have thought that these seemingly privileged Ivy League graduates would be standing victorious over a decade later?
But that's always been the sweet irony of Vampire Weekend. Here was a bunch of kids with Ukrainian, Persian, Italian and Hungarian heritages, talking about being at odds in the Waspish world in which they found themselves, while simultaneously tapping into that creeping millennial dread that's grown stronger in recent years. They sang of worlds both familiar yet alien over a strange mix of garage rock, pop, and lush African harmonies. Being that 'Father of the Bride' is one of most anticipated albums of the year, it's clear that success has been the best form of revenge.
As the band often point out, life can sometimes come at you fast, and a lot has happened in the VW camp this past half decade. After three albums spent using New York as a key character, this next chapter sees Koenig a married father living that sun-kissed West Coast life. Even more important has been the loss of multi-instrumentalist and producer Rostam Batmanglij who amicably parted ways once commitments were fulfilled on the last tour cycle.
With this in my mind, it's no surprise that the once titled 'Mitsubishi Macchiato' is a freewheeling affair filled with springtime energy and more collaborators than before. Talk of this being the group's most 'American' sounding record are confirmed with the opening 'Hold You Now,' a country-themed duet with Danielle Haim that features some of that trademark grandeur that's become the group’s stock and trade.
The previously released 'Harmony Hall' – a Batmanglij co-production – revisits the easy charm of old, as does 'Bambina', a delirious pop number that could have been easily slotted in on 2010's 'Contra'. It's when we hit 'This Life' that we see a more relaxed and less literary-bound VW appear. It's a perfectly upbeat road trip anthem in the same mould as Van Morrison and deserves a place in anyone's summertime playlist.
'Rich Man' sees Koenig croon romantically over some lush strings and a repeated lo-fi melody to gorgeous effect, while the later 'Sympathy's mix of Hispanic rhythm and electronic screeches show that his time spent working with Kanye West and SBTRK was not wasted.
Still at 18 tracks there is –albeit very pleasant – filler dotted within. 'Big Blue' is too light to really hit its goal, similarly 'Sunflower', while admirably revealing the new direction of the band, fades away before really making an impact. Elsewhere the group covers some well-worn ground but, as is their strength, sound charming while doing so.
As a collection, 'Father of the Bride' holds together remarkably well. This is not some grand tome where these indie vets try and break new sonic territory every track for better or worse. Here we see a bunch of thirty-somethings letting go of some past anxieties and leaning into newfound securities. It's a relaxed record happily borrowing from the modern American songbook, a little Fleetwood Mac here, a little Paul Simon there.
For some Vampire Weekend will remain infuriatingly anti-rock 'n' roll, but if 'Father of the Bride' is anything to go on, they don't give a good goddamn. Welcome back, boys.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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