Released on May 3 via Columbia Records, Vampire Weekend’s fourth studio album, “Father of the Bride,” has already made more sales in a single week than any other rock album in 2019. During the short amount of time their new music has been public, the band has quickly made their way to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, for the third time in a row.
The highly acclaimed group has certainly come a long way since they first formed back in 2006, when they started out as a college band posting their songs on the internet. Since then, they have become recognized for their upbeat melodies and insightful lyrics, two hallmarks of their sound that still ring clear on their latest track list. Although the band tends to take long gaps between albums, forcing fans to anticipate “Father of the Bride” for nearly six years, Vampire Weekend has proved that their music is well worth the wait, because of its consistent quality and growth of their production.
Regardless of how long the group’s various hiatuses last, Vampire Weekend has a knack for crafting melodies so insidiously catchy that you find yourself craving them, inexplicably, from time to time. They’ve created a number of hits that are perpetually memorable, such as “A-Punk,” “Oxford Comma” and “Step.” While it would be difficult to reconstruct anything quite this extraordinary again, their new album maintains a similar spirit and enthusiastic energy as their preceding ones.
In order to paint a nostalgic image, Vampire Weekend named their album “Father of the Bride” as a tribute to the famous ’90s movie starring Steve Martin. A prevalent theme surrounding the music is the richness of history and the passing of time. Their new music expresses the urgency of executing our current ideas while we still have them, because change is inescapable and our thoughts and feelings will constantly ebb and flow.
The band itself has experienced some rather drastic changes over the past few years, with some band members leaving to work on solo ventures, and other musicians and producers joining the Vampire Weekend team. According to lead singer, Ezra Koenig, “The web of Vampire Weekend collaborators has expanded. It now feels less like a band and more like a project.” The group is clearly bursting with new concepts, people and sounds. It feels less narrow and more like an expansive playground.
The aesthetic of the album cover, as well as the music videos released so far, are colorful and animated, giving off a playful, almost childlike vibe. Using a cartoonish globe surrounded by vast whiteness for the cover artwork, the message is both simple and complex at the same time. By choosing to do this, Koenig and his bandmates remind listeners that even though we feel like the center of the whole world, we are tiny in the grand scheme of things. That being said, our smallest actions still have the power to make a huge difference.
Each song’s lyrics on “Father of the Bride” make us wonder: How do we make the most of the little time that we’re given? In the song “How Long?” the artists’ mastery of poetry and depth within simplicity is evident with the lyrics, “We can live down in the flats / The hills will fall eventually / How long ’til we sink to the bottom of the sea? / How long, how long? / How long ’til we sink and it’s only you and me?”
The imagery that Koenig illustrates is universal, reminding us that everything washing away in an instant is imminent for everyone, but at the same time, we’re in this together, and it’s merely the process of life we must undergo.
Perhaps illuminatingly, Koenig experienced the birth of his son shortly before the album was released. He and his partner, actress Rashida Jones, had their baby in August 2018, and the event might have inspired Koenig to write lyrics about the sensations he was dealing with about becoming a parent. In an interview with Stereogum, the vocalist talks about looking at things from a different perspective as you get older. “‘Father of the Bride’ is meant to make you think of a wedding, a life cycle event, a moment of transition,” he said.
Something that has always stuck out about Vampire Weekend is the ability to balance two extremes together; whether it is between the beginning and the end, love and longing, humor and sincerity or darkness and light, they manage to do it successfully. Because of this ever-present mixture of tones, “Father of the Bride” contains a lot of layer and texture that distinguishes the group from other artists.
In “Hold You Now,” the album’s intro song, Koenig sings a duet with Danielle Haim, the middle sister from the band Haim, leading listeners to wonder about the things in their life they wish could last forever, but inevitably cannot. Together they sing, “Promises of future glory don’t make a case for me / I did my best and all the rest is hidden by the clouds / I can’t carry you forever, but I can hold you now.” This verse, powerfully written and beautifully sung, reminds us to enjoy what we have while we have it because one day it’ll all disappear.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in thoughts of the past and preparations for the future, but in reality, the only thing we are guaranteed is today and the present moment we are experiencing. In “Harmony Hall,” one of the album’s most popular songs so far, Koenig writes, “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die,” summing up the simultaneous plainness and intricacy of his artwork. He goes on, “I thought that I was free from all that questionin’ / But every time a problem ends, another one begins.”
Forever interested in pondering life’s biggest questions, Vampire Weekend explores the idea of time, age, legacy and hope in “Father of the Bride.” Koenig himself attributes his deep emotions to a “quarter-life crisis,” but the concerns he comes face to face with, such as the catastrophes exhausting the world around us and the limited amount of time we have to do everything we dream of, raises profound awareness for listeners all over the globe.