The music world is overflowing with pop, trap, hip-hop and electronica galore. Aside from a few singer-songwriters, soundtracks and hidden gems — I’m looking at you, Maggie Rogers and Kacey Musgraves — the top charts are incredibly monotone.
That is why a breath of fresh musical air is so inviting: a brief change from the norm sounds like nothing better.
Well, if you are one to partake in indie rock with African and world music inspirations and have patience for your favorite artists, then your time is now. Vampire Weekend, almost six years since their last release, are re-entering the ring.
Ezra Koenig — the band’s lead guitarist and vocalist — discussed Vampire Weekend’s fourth studio album on Instagram Jan. 17. The artist shared the photo of a folder on a Mac computer with the name “FOTB.” Koenig explained by saying, “It’s called ‘FOTB’ (well those are the initials — that’s a VW tradition) and it’s 18 songs.”
One week later on Jan. 24, two of the new tracks were released. The songs, “Harmony Hall” and “2021,” are the first of “three 2-song drops every month.” On the same day, Koenig not only spoke about both tracks, but also announced the title of the album with Beats 1 DJ Matt Wilkinson.
“Father of the Bride” is set to be a 59-minute double album, and while there is no release date, an estimated timetable suggests somewhere in the April-May range.
This will mark the band’s fourth album in their 13 years together. To understand the dynamic now, it is worth taking a look at the beginnings of Vampire Weekend.
It all began with two Columbia freshman; Ezra Koenig and Andrew Kalaidjian formed a rap group, which the two dubbed L’Homme Run. Later on in their freshman year, Koenig met Rostam Batmanglij at a party, and while they did not necessarily bond over similar artists, the two “shared a passion for exploration and performance.”
Batmanglij then met a fellow freshman named Chris Tomson in their harmony and composition classes, and before long Tomson was part of L’Homme Run, performing with Koenig and identifying as the trio’s hype man.
Come sophomore year, Koenig’s new roommate was unbeknowingly the final piece to their puzzle. Chris Baio was not only a talented guitarist and songwriter already, but he had previously played in a band with Tomson at Columbia before rooming with Koenig.
After collaborating and building their friendships, the four debuted as Vampire Weekend at a battle of the bands in 2006. They got third place. There were four bands.
Nevertheless, they continued to play shows around their university. They all graduated from Columbia, and they continued to make music.
In 2007, they released several singles, and as they gained popularity they went on tour with The Shins in the UK.
Their debut album, “Vampire Weekend,” was released January 29, 2008 under XL Recordings. All four of the members were working full-time jobs, and Batmanglij self-produced the album. That was where Vampire Weekend really kicked into gear, a hair over 11 years ago.
Almost two years later, the band’s second album “Contra” was released, delighting fans and providing more material to listen to. It debuted at number one on US Billboard 200, and propelled Vampire Weekend into the international spotlight even further.
The third studio album could have been released as early as the fall 2012, but Vampire Weekend embraced their mid-twenties maturity and waited until May 2013. The patience to not release seemed to pay off, as “Modern Vampires of the City” was another smashing success, following in Contra’s footsteps and also debuting at number one on US Billboard 200.
“Modern Vampires of the City” marked a significant change in sound. While it still held elements of the band’s first two albums, it was darker, more reflective and seemed to echo the process of growing up. Long passed were the days of their Columbia youth.
Fast forward to the present. Vampire Weekend has matured, evolved, lost Rostam to his solo efforts — with good intentions and no love lost, though — and continued to make their unabashedly unique music.
“Harmony Hall” and “2021” offer a fresh yet familiar sound, and help disrupt the repetitive sounds found all over the top charts. The sound is definitely Vampire Weekend, with the addictive and upbeat guitar reminding you of springtime. While it takes influences from previous albums, the only thing truly tying Vampire Weekend’s songs through years are Koenig’s vocals.
“Harmony Hall” and its opening guitar riff mark a finished work for Koenig, who struggled to complement the accompanying piano riff. It is quirky, bubbly and downright fun — even if the lyrics are not.
With “2021,” the sample and looping seem to add depth and length to a song that isn’t even 100 seconds long.
However, if songs tell us anything, it is that Vampire Weekend has taken influence from other artists about their lyrics, one in particular being Kacey Musgraves. Koenig addressed her influences on being straightforward with the implied message of a song, and both of the band’s new singles are clear about what they are trying to convey. While Koenig’s avant-garde style reigns supreme, he understands the importance of transparency in music now.
With more music to come in the near future and a double album in sight, Vampire Weekend is back and happy to indulge their fans in their new music.