What’s better than a surprise release? A surprise release by a group that hasn’t made anything new in what feels like eons. Early 2000s indie-rock group Vampire Weekend released two new singles, “Harmony” and “2021,” last week, and every alternative lover who still wants to pretend that he is an angsty teenager can’t contain himself.
These two new hits are a segment in the wheelhouse of a new album, “Father of the Bride,” that is set to release later this year. Time seems to be the front-runner with Vampire Weekend’s new concept, with the long gap between album releases and the themes displayed in both of the new songs.
“Harmony Hall” is a nostalgic glance back, with the title representing their old college dorm where the group originally formed. “2021” is a glance into the future, where the sounds will take listeners along with the group, as they go through their journey into the unknown.
The feel-good guitar plucking and reggae-style instruments heard in the beginning of “Harmony Hall” bring out a nostalgic feeling listeners experience when listening to their old tracks. We’re taken back to a time when things didn’t seem to make sense, but we had a romanticized idea of the future that meant brightness was on the horizon.
Yet underneath the optimistic tone in the song, Vampire Weekend has executed their superb song-writing with lyrics that hit just a little too close to home. In “Harmony Hall,” frontman Ezra Koenig sings, “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die.”
That one line instantly places every person listening to the song in their own version of the story, their real-life music video. This feeling of being stuck in between life and death and not knowing where to go next is common when you’re young, yet nobody seems to know how to articulate it correctly. Vampire Weekend does it so flawlessly that suddenly you have an explanation for the highest highs and the lows that seem to plummet through your entire body.
This track, in particular, is a great reflection of the stigma of mental health in our generation. We are becoming more transparent, but we aren’t afraid to admit when things are rough. However, we don’t know how to progress ourselves forward. We’re stuck in this limbo, afraid of death, hoping that something or someone will make the pain go away.
It hits home, and Vampire Weekend does it in a way that it is raw and unnerving, which leaves you feeling like you’re sitting at a happy jam session and the world is slightly less lonely than it was a few minutes ago.
With “2021,” listeners take a dive into what lies ahead both for the group and for life in general. The song itself is only a minute-and-a-half long, and my only complaint about it is that it ends too soon. Cue the endless loops, and cue the wistful longing for more time.
There is no accurate telling of what will happen in the future, and that is the unnerving and unchangeable fact that lingers throughout the song. Koenig sings, “2021, will you think of me? I could wait a year, but I couldn’t wait three.”
With relationships specifically, it is almost impossible to say where two people will stand in three years’ time. There’s the happy ever after that is played in the fantasy in the back of their mind, and then there is the realistic worst-case scenario: real life coming into a play and separation following suit.
“2021” also has a sample from Japanese musician Haruomi Hosono that was originally produced in the 1980s. Koenig heard the tune when he was in Japan and began writing lyrics to accompany it.
So, in light of the two tracks released so far, what should you expect from the full album? According to the band, “Father of the Bride” will contain 18 songs, with confirmed tracks including “How Long,” “Big Blue,” “Sunflower,” “Until When,” “This Life,” “Boy,” “Flower Moon” and “Conversation.” And while everybody is waiting, two new releases will be coming out every month until the release of the album in its entirety.
Contributions from former member Rostam Batmanglij will also be seen on the new album, despite his departure from the group in 2016 to pursue a solo career.
It was already predicted that “2019” will have a steady flow of releases that would shake the music industry, and Vampire Weekend’s new sound and the passage of time might just be the next thing to rupture the foundation of indie pop.