Design By Humans
Published On: Mon, Sep 16th, 2019

Vampire Weekend: Father of the Bride

Vampire Weekend
Father of the Bride
(Sony Music)

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Father of the Bride is Vampire Weekend’s first album in six years, their longest gap between albums and a good stretch of time by any standard. Amazingly, it’s also been eleven years since their self-titled debut. They’re still a new band in my mind yet things were so much different then. The gap between albums, it seems, was spent figuring out who they are now.

That debut arrived seemingly out of nowhere and was both economical in production yet widely experimental in its content. It had a distinct sound yet incorporated a range of influences. Father of the Bride is an evolution of that model. While the sound is more expansive they can still build interesting songs with only a few elements. As for their experimentalism, that’s definitely here as well, perhaps more so than ever. They’ve dabbled in sampling before but it plays a large role here, with multiple songs built on samples.

“Hold You Now” incorporates pieces of the score of The Thin Red Line into an otherwise pretty standard country ballad. “2021” builds a motif out of a pitch-shifted sample of Jenny Lewis singing the word “boy.” There are many other cases where samples, as well as ambient noise, make their mark on a song.

One common element of their sound has always been very tight yet present drumming. The majority of these songs, however, uses minimal percussion or electronic beats. In many cases, there’s no drums at all. Another change for the band is the presence of multiple collaborators. A triptych of duets with Danielle Haim serve as sign-posts to guide you through the album while a pair of collaborations with The Internet’s Steve Lacy is among Father of the Bride’s brightest spots. Much of this can be owed to Rostam Batmanglij’s departure from the band. In addition to his instrumental and songwriting contributions, Batmanglij also produced all of their other albums. Although he still produced a couple of tracks here his absence is felt.

In what’s perhaps a huge compliment, it took a lot of people to fill that gap. Ariel Rechtshaid, who co-produced 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City, is back at the helm but other producers such as Chromeo’s Dave Macklovitch, BloodPop, and DJ Dahi get their say on certain songs as well. What all of this leaves us with is a singer-songwriter album that feels like a hip-hop album. Ezra Koenig, vocally and lyrically, is the focal point but the varied production gives your ears a lot to do.

One possible drawback to Father of the Bride is its length. It bears repeated listens but that can feel like a bit of a task. Their debut album gets in fast, makes a big impact, and gets out just as quick. Yet still I was walking around singing those songs to myself for days after listening to it. This album has a lot more to take in and has fewer hooks that stay with you. However, every time I re-listened to it I found myself thinking “oh yeah this one” and “right, this one’s good too.” Vampire Weekend figured out who they are at this point in time and where they fit in the music world. This one is more for the true believers than converts but it certainly makes for an interesting listen.

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Vampire Weekend: Father of the Bride