“Father of the Bride” released after years of anticipation May 3. Before this new summertime record, Vampire Weekend hadn’t put out an album since their 2013 masterpiece “Modern Vampires of the City.” This third album was widely regarded as one of the best albums of the year, making it to the top of Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2013 List and receiving a 9.3 from the tough critics at Pitchfork. Following this record would be tough, especially after a six-year-long hiatus. Luckily the band and frontman Ezra Koenig did not disappoint, bringing a fresh yet mature spin on the Vampire Weekend sound.
Earlier in their career, with their self-titled debut and follow up “Contra,” the band was known for their preppy indie-pop lyrics rooted in college culture and references to upper east coast lifestyles. They had been pinned as a one-note indie band before “Modern Vampires of the City” shattered all expectations with a darker tone and more experimental instrumentals. After three sets of unique and upbeat singles were released between January and April to mostly positive reception, fans were curious to hear what the full album would bring.
I was apprehensive during my first listen. Loving half of the singles and feeling neutral about the other three, I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy the album as a whole. I initially didn’t enjoy the opening track “Hold You Now,” featuring Danielle Haim. The more disconnected duet threw me off and I thought the cutting between the two singers was choppy and oddly placed. The more I listened, however, the more I began to appreciate the clean sound of each voice and the combination of the flowing guitar and choir. After adjusting to the new, more random arrangement of “Hold You Now,” I dove into the rest of the album with an open mind.
The best part of “Father of the Bride” is the uniqueness of each song. The songs don’t flow from one to the next like “Modern Vampires of the City,” but can stand alone. Each song has a specific identity while still connecting to the album as a whole, allowing fans to pick and choose based on their mood or listen to from top to bottom for a wide-ranging experience.
Koenig‘s vocals are the star of the show on this album. He sounded great on previous albums, but the individuality of “Father of the Bride” really let Koenig explore his range much more. The addition of Haim also boosted the vocals on the album and perfectly matched the style Vampire Weekend was going for.
I enjoyed the album as a whole, but certain songs definitely stand out more than others. My personal favorite was “Rich Man,” a calm break from the speedy indie pop with muted acoustic guitar and string arrangements throughout. “This Life,” “Sympathy” and “Bambina” are also highlights. “Sympathy” is near the tail-end of the album and is a bit more intense compared to “This Life” and “Bambina,” which start the record on a happy note. As the album progresses, the tone and lyrics go from light and airy to more urgent and somber.
The band showed their maturity and growth through their evolved lyrics. Before, their lyrics were centered around problems associated with being young and not really having a clear idea about relationships. On “Father of the Bride,” Koenig brings marriage, commitment and world conflict to the forefront, connecting with a wider range of listeners.
Though this album isn’t Vampire Weekend’s best work, it is a great continuation of their style as a band. “Father of the Bride” is a great summer album that gets better with each listen and will age incredibly well.
Vampire Weekend begins their summer 2019 tour next week at the Alabama Hangout Festival and will come to Philadelphia at the Mann Center Sept. 4.