Out There Music Review: Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend

 
2019’s  Father of the Bride  is only Vampire Weekend’s third full length in over a decade, but it bears all the hallmarks of a band who has matured like a fine wine

2019’s Father of the Bride is only Vampire Weekend’s third full length in over a decade, but it bears all the hallmarks of a band who has matured like a fine wine

 

For a group that made their name harmonizing indie pop and afrobeat synth and guitar sensibilities, Vampire Weekend’s newest effort, Father of the Bride, starts off with a surprise. The plaintive acoustic guitar lick and straightforward, earnest lyrics of opening track Hold You Now are reminiscent of a chipper version of an early Iron & Wine album, especially when a mournful lap steel guitar arrives in the background. The first hint of the Vampire Weekend fans have come to know and love comes from a broad and expansive harmonized choral part towards the end of that track.

The album starts to make sense when the second, standout single starts. Harmony Hall’s chorus hook of “I don’t want to live like this\But I don’t want to die” sticks in the listener’s head instantly, and when the plonky, cheery piano lick shows up early in that track, everything falls together. A decade and change later, Vampire Weekend has cemented its graduation from kitschy, hipster chic flavour of the week to mature, varied and pop sensible heavyweight indie group. The cheeky baroque piano breakdown halfway through that track even starts to feel a little showy in terms of ability -- in a charming way of course. Overall this tune defines the record: slick classic guitar playing, earworm “oooooh” vocal flair, and lots of snappy fills, changes and breaks that feel completely normal, organic and appropriate to the tune itself.

Cheery and marching, much like  Father of the Bride

Cheery and marching, much like Father of the Bride

From those defining moments, Father of the Bride takes a warm and dynamic trip through the varying universe of songs Vampire Weekend is now capable of. The old, cutesy sing song group survives in the 1:43 little ditty Bambina, and the curious blend of lo-fi and lush of Rich Man (a standout for this humble writer) and the loose, tropical feeling Flower Man. They flex their driving rock muscles with the jangly, clappy Sympathy, a curious mosaic of sounds that incorporates odd synth bloops and sampled chorus vocals as easily as it does Flamenco-ish guitar flairs.

There are a number of deeply emotive numbers too, which is probably linked to the greater emotional range and depth the group has developed over the years. My Mistake is a piano ballad with 50s style background singers and film score worthy string arrangements, topped with sax licks worthy of George Michael.

Their electronic programming even flirts with trap elements (syncopated snares and big 808s), somehow linked with 80s-worthy distorted acoustic guitar and more creative vocal sampling on a backdrop of trademark lush yet retro keys.

This review could go on but the album is simply too long and has too many different ideas to be summated into anything less than an essay -- the bottom line is that Vampire Weekend has arrived again with a record that pulls influences from 80s pop to deep electronica to soulful ballads to folksy jangles in a fashion that is coherent, smooth, and frankly, flawless.

Written by James Nason