I have a process when I try and put together a review. I listen to the album a few times and then throw the tracks that have caught my attention into a separate playlist. I generally end up with a playlist of 4 tracks. This week, Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride has thrown that process out the window. By the end of the initial listen, I was left with 10 tracks. That is how good this album is.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 13 years, Vampire Weekend’s sound is more than distinctive. Throw in Ezra Koenig’s voice in for good measure and you have a clever combination of alt-pop draped in a summer haze. But Father of the Bride is more than just a nostalgic trip through Vampire Weekend’s best sounds. This is an album that includes tracks expected from Vampire Weekend but also tracks that throw their usual production techniques out the window and create songs it makes it hard not to smile.
“Harmony Hall” was initially released in January and starts calmly but then kicks in with some very George Michael “Freedom”-esque piano. It is catchy, addictive and so uplifting that I think my feet may have left the ground. Just like the rest of the album, this track feels like the overly optimistic tone is constantly trying to work impending darkness. It is aware of it but continues to push through the overhanging pessimism with a voice soaring anthem.
“Sunflower (feat. Steve Lacy)” is a psychedelic Beatles-esque track that is truly masterful. A simple guitar motif with a fairly plebeian melody is mixed with sirens in the distance pulls you straight in. Tempo changes and interjecting dialogue make this track a heavily constructed mess, one that you keep going back to.
Obviously, I can’t review each track but here are a few more tracks worth mentioning. “Stranger” is an unusual reassuring anthem that genuinely makes you feel like everything is going to be ok, whilst also saying that everything is a little bit crap. It has a bouncy optimism that may just get us through darker days. Building on that optimism, “Rich Man” infuses an MGM musical worthy violin melody that recounts memories of merry dancers, tapping and shuffling their way along a stage. More importantly, “Rich Man” serves as an introspective exercise for Vampire Weekend amidst their growing popularity.
I have always liked Vampire Weekend but found that each of their albums, while they had great tracks, always missed a trick with the other tracks. Each album left you wanting more, knowing that they could have delivered more. Father of the Bride, however, doesn’t miss a beat. It mixes their expected sound with technical musical trickery to create an album that will not be off my turntable any time soon.