- 14 May 19
Toothsome indie darlings shine on eclectic new LP.
“Getting to the top wasn’t supposed to be this hard,” Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig croons. Yet, their first few albums made it look easy. Bursting onto the scene with their self-titled debut in 2008, their chirpy vocals and worldbeat melodies were endlessly replayable.
Father Of The Bride arrives nearly six years after 2013’s more contemplative Modern Vampires Of The City. Following the departure of the group’s key member and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij, would Vampire Weekend return to their bouncy up-tempo roots, or continue to grow into something different? They do both.
Acoustic guitars and story-driven lyrics take centrestage on opener ‘Hold You Now’, a glorious duet between Koenig and Danielle Haim. The story of a man visiting his ex-lover on her wedding day, it’s both infectious and mournful. If it wasn’t for the bonkers-but-brilliant sampling of Melanesian choral music on the refrain, you might not know it was Vampire Weekend.
The first of many country-tinged duets with Haim, alongside the similarly emotional ‘Married In A Gold Rush’ and ‘We Belong Together’, it sets the tone for FOTB, blending the darker lyrics of Vampire Weekend’s later work with the diverse instrumentation and samples of their earlier records. There’s a roster of collaborators involved (including Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth and Jenny Lewis), encouraging them to explore new sounds.
‘Big Blue’ is like their take on ‘Blue Moon’, backed by ambient reverb and detuned guitars. With its flamenco stylings, ‘Sympathy’ is sexier than Vampire Weekend have ever sounded, with Koenig preaching the benefits of self-confidence. The stripped back ‘Unbearably White’ is a haunting ballad about a couple’s fading romance, comparing the situation evocatively to an impending avalanche.
On ‘How Long’, apocalyptic musings merge with Talking Heads-style art-pop, while ‘Sunflower’ feels ripped from the ’70s, blending psychedelia with soul. Much of FOTB is Vampire Weekend delighting in the room to experiment. The Haruomi Hosono-inspired ‘2021’, feels more like a sketch than a song. Overall though, this is an enthralling record.