Another One Begins: Vampire Weekend Returns With Father of the Bride

Sweaters over collared button-downs. Ivy crawling up the brick walls of an ancient liberal arts institution. Wes Anderson's 1998 comedy Rushmore. Lonely cityscapes full of wist. These are the motifs fans of Vampire Weekend have come to associate with the New York-based rock band's music. And for the last six years, those motifs, seen in Vampire Weekend, Contra, and Modern Vampires of the City, have been all that fans have had to cling to, following the band's 2014 hiatus. But this January, frontman Ezra Koenig announced via Instagram plans for a new release, cryptically initialed as FOTB, with scheduled releases of two singles per month leading up to the album drop on May 3rd. As I write this at 12:51 AM of May 3rd, the world has had an hour (in central time, at least) to get acquainted to their newest, spring-y release, Father of the Bride.

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To the fans:⁣ I know that 5-6 years is considered a long time between records. Personally, I think it’s a dignified pace befitting a band that’s already placed three albums in stores but everyone has their own sense of time. (I swear the time between 3 & 4 felt shorter to me than 2 & 3. I may be in the minority on this one.) ⁣ ⁣ This album didn’t really take any longer to write/record than MVOTC. We just took more time on the front end to chill. I’ll admit I may have stretched out the mixing/mastering process (aka THE END) a little bit cuz spending half the day with my family & half the day at Ariel’s is my ideal life-rhythm & it’s painful to say goodbye to that rhythm.⁣ ⁣ Many of you have been hungry for information and we’ve given you very little. I don’t like talking abt a project while in the middle of making it. 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.) I thought abt making a recording diary to tide over the people leaving intense comments but…to me, the album IS the recording diary…man.⁣ ⁣ It’s called “FOTB” (well those are the initials - that’s a VW tradition) and it’s 18 songs. Picked the name a few years ago. At some point early on, the album drifted from the Mitsubishi Macchiato aesthetic. It was a helpful guiding principle tho. Working titles are important too.⁣ ⁣ It’s a lot of songs but they all belong there. (If you disagree, you can always say it was 6 songs too long & make a lil 12-song playlist version of it.) At first, I wanted to make two 23-song albums on some human chromosome shit but then 23&me started doing Spotify playlists and I don’t know…felt we’d been scooped.⁣ ⁣ Is it a double album? The vinyl will be double so…yes? It’s about 59 minutes long. We can talk more abt that later – if u care. To me, it’s just FOTB.⁣ ⁣ Anyway, we’re gonna start releasing music next week. After all that waiting, you should have the general schedule:⁣ ⁣ -There will be three 2-song drops every month until the record is out. 1. hh/2021 2. s/bb 3. tl/uw. (plans can change that’s the plan)⁣ ⁣ Thank you for ur patience,⁣ Ezra

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Playfully buoyant and passive– at times, overly so, such with the synth-filled, ambient "2021" – Father of the Bride marks a new phase and focus for Vampire Weekend. While Modern Vampires of the City centered around death and mourning, with nostalgic, metaphor-packed lyrics, FOTB is incredibly lighthearted in comparison, while still incredibly lyrically striking and melodic. The songs don't take themselves too seriously, ever; Koenig even sings "I think I take myself too serious…it’s not that serious" in "Symphony", a nice tongue-in-cheek touch to the ever-flowing momentum of the collection. "Harmony Hall" has him repeating the hook of the 2013 track "Finger Back" in the chorus: "I don't wanna live like this, but I don't wanna die". For an album that, sonically, departs quite a lot from their last album, Vampire Weekend harps on themes and lyrics that have an inherently Vampire Weekend vibe. And yet, it works. "Unbearably White" sounds just as melancholy as something off of Modern Vampires, but Koenig's lilted voice and plucky guitar, Chris Baio's soft bass, and the overall tone of the song are much, much happier– think of the heartbreak behind Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, juxtaposed with the valence of "Go Your Own Way" and "Don't Stop".

FOTB saw Vampire Weekend making new decisions besides just the sound choices. It is the first album by the band to include artist features; Steve Lacy lends his voice and guitar to "Sunflower" and "Flower Moon", while Danielle Haim of HAIM sings alongside Koenig on "Hold You Now", "Married in a Gold Rush", and "We Belong Together". While Lacy, known for his R&B prowess, seems like an odd choice for a VW feature, it manages to work– at least, as solo releases. "Sunflower", while a fun, bass- and scat-filled song, appears a bit out of place for an album otherwise full of soft and plucky guitars. Danielle Haim is a much more agreeable choice to feature; the frontwoman of her indie rock band of sisters, discovered by Rilo Kiley's Jenny Slate and admired by CeeLo Green and The Strokes' Julian Casablancas, her voice, paired with Koenig's on "Married in a Gold Rush" works seamlessly within the framework of the album. If Koenig, now 35, is the titular Father, there is no doubt that Danielle herself is the Bride in question. I would not be surprised to see further collaborations between her and the band, if not a HAIM x VW crossover at some point.

The album continues to defy any stereotypes held by fans of the band. Koenig's seemingly effortless musical craftsmanship proves elusive in defining what exactly the band's sound is. FOTB alludes to many artists: Fleetwood Mac, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, Paul Simon, even, and continues to hold its own on the alternative rock scene. While the band continues to elude definition, fans are sure to recognize Koenig's poetic storytelling lyricism and Vampire Weekend's signature instrumentalism (listen to "Jerusalem, New York, Berlin", "Spring Snow", or "This Life"). It is at once an album fans expected and could never have thought of. And that, it seems, is just what Koenig wanted.