Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig (photo by Monika Mogi, PR)
Father of the Bride
It's been six years since the release of Vampire Weekend's last album, Modern Vampires of the City. Taking a notable break frequently works creative wonders for a band and gives members the time to pause, recharge the batteries, and experience life. But a long hiatus can sometimes be detrimental. Fortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case for Vampire Weekend, which has been around for 13 years, but it does reflect the big internal changes in the group.
Father of the Bride follows a period of respite and revitalization that came in the aftermath of Vampire Weekend's third album. During this time, bassist Chris Baio and drummer Chris Tomson released solo albums (as Baio and Dams Of The West, respectively) and lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Ezra Koenig and his girlfriend Rashida Jones became parents. But a significant lineup change — the departure of multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Rostam Batmanglij in early 2016 — shifted Vampire Weekend's dynamic. Although the parting was amicable and Batmanglij made it clear that he will occasionally collaborate with his former bandmates in the future (as he does on this new album), the longtime quartet, formed at Columbia University, was now officially a trio.
Work began on Father of the Bride in early 2016, with Koenig painstakingly writing the new material and calling on outside collaborators for input and assistance. Ariel Rechtshaid (Adele, Haim, Madonna), who worked on Modern Vampires of the City, shares in some production duties and Batmanglij cowrote “We Belong Together" and co-produced “Harmony Hall."
The sprawling 18-track, 58-minute Father of the Bride is brimming with idiosyncratic and diverse ideas that draw from various genres. Koenig, who wrote or cowrote all of the songs on the album, concentrated on every lyrical theme and fine-tuned each song until perfect. It is also Vampire Weekend’s most ambitious album to date.
Opening track “Hold You Now,” is an acoustic duet, pairing Koenig with Danielle Haim of Haim. They are joined by a vocal choir, which is actually a sample from Hans Zimmer’s score for the film “The Thin Red Line.” This surreal texture to an otherwise casual song, peppered with numerous stops and starts, is surprising. Haim also sings on “Married In A Gold Rush” and “We Belong Together.” These three duets form a trilogy of relationship songs that are both serious and playful.
Father of the Bride offers large doses of sweet ear candy, like “Harmony Hall,” a pop song enriched by a dash of classically-inspired piano. “This Life" was cowritten with Oscar-winner Mark Ronson and rapper Makonnen Sheran, aka ILoveMakonnen, while “Flower Moon" features an appearance by the Internet's Steve Lacy, who is also onboard the sun-kissed "Sunflower." The melancholy “Unbearably White,” with additional production by Michael Tucker of BloodPop, adds a taste of R&B. “Sympathy” is an electrifying, flamenco-meets-techno flavored song. The lo-fi production of “Rich Man” adds ornate strings and a sample by the Sierra Leone guitarist S.E. Rogie. Vampire Weekend's Afrobeat influences are the backbone of Father of the Bride, as they've been with nearly all of the band's recordings.
Vampire Weekend are back and on Father of the Bride, the trio (and friends) take stock of what's been accomplished and what lies ahead. For their fourth album, that means a rich potpourri of moods, attitudes, emotions and vibes.