REVIEW: Vampire Weekend "Father Of The Bride"
While far from the band’s most cutting-edge work, Vampire Weekend’s fourth studio album is a colourful and wildly enjoyable pop extravaganza, writes Matthew Forbes
It might sound a little crazy, but Vampire Weekend’s newest album might be the most ‘Vampire Weekend’ thing they’ve done.
Continuing on from the stylistic pivot that occurred on the New York band’s last album, Father of the Bride pulls from an extensive range of musical styles while mostly rooting itself in the pop and rock sounds of the 60’s and 70’s, as well as an overarching ‘jam band’ aesthetic a la the Grateful Dead.
Beneath the quirky demeanour and odd production of their previous work these influences have always been present, so Father of the Bride doesn’t feel like an unnatural development.
The track ‘Bambina’ alternates between high energy rock-&-roll verses and more subdued passages that would fit snugly onto either of the band’s last two albums.
Many of the songs here utilise a stylistic and dynamic variation that makes their brighter, explosive sections all the more enthralling. Lead single ‘Harmony Hall’ exemplifies this perfectly, with verses featuring peaceful acoustic guitars and a folky vocal melody leading into a shimmering, euphoric piano-driven chorus.
The generally more accessible sounds the band toy with on this album are met with some of their most direct yet despondent lyricism yet. Frontman Ezra Koenig tackles everything from environmental degradation to marital problems. The latter of these becomes most apparent on the tracks featuring Danielle Haim’s gorgeous co-lead vocals and cutesy sung banter with Koenig.
Particularly dark themes cut through on some of the most musically cheery tracks on the album. Take the irresistible ‘This Life’, for one. It’s possibly the clearest example of Paul Simon inspiration on the entire record due to its lively instrumentation and the way that it makes existential dread sound way more fun than you’d expect.
Though it may toe the line at times, this album remarkably manages to steer clear of any majorly corny territory. There’s a lot of carefully composed and lavishly arranged pop songs here that show a deep appreciation for classic songwriting while incorporating modern twists.
‘Married in a Gold Rush’ is a country song at heart, but it’s predominantly led by bright, stuttered synth chords and a constant electronic kick drum.
This contrast works to similarly great effect on ‘Jerusalem, New York, Berlin’, which features a rustic piano and a throbbing electronic bass line as its sole instrumentation.
Admittedly, this blend of old and new falls short on a couple of occasions, like the inclusion of some lifeless sampled vocals in the otherwise peppy ‘Sympathy’, or the gimmicky sound effects on ‘How Long?’.
While I’m complaining, it’s worth mentioning that the variety of textures the band and their collaborators construct on this album aren’t always as fulfilling as they could be. Despite its anthemic melodies, ‘We Belong Together’ suffers from a hollow mix during the grander instrumental passages of the song.
The far sparser ‘Sunflower’ is certainly smooth, but feels majorly under-written and under-arranged compared to so many other songs on the album (even ones shorter than it, like ‘2021’).
Despite these issues, it’s incredibly difficult to deny how enjoyable a lot of Father of the Bride is. On top of that, it barely drags at all during its 58-minute runtime, which is a feat of its own.
What it lacks by way of the experimentation and eccentricity that made the band’s earlier albums so exciting is made up for by the captivating and infectious songwriting and a kaleidoscopic approach to genre that ultimately makes for a rewarding listen.