If you’re someone who still has yet to listen to Vampire Weekend, you would likely scoff at the notion of extending empathy to the ennui of mostly-white, privileged NYU hipsters. What could they have to say for the regular people? The answer is surprisingly a lot. Their secret is Ezra Koenig’s preternatural self-awareness and Paul Simon-esque knowledge of genre, something that remains intact in Father of the Bride.
Their first record in six years did not arrive without some sense of trepidation. First, Koenig and co. had to top 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City, which would be a Sisyphean task for lesser indie rockers. Then came the news in 2016 of co-founder Rostam Batmanglij leaving the band. In January, the band released the first two singles, ‘Harmony Hall’ and ‘2021,’ the former of which left me thinking that Koenig was getting complacent.
All those fears and doubts can be put to rest, however, as while their latest does not succeed their priors, it stands on its own as a great and worthwhile addition to the band’s discography.
Koenig stated that he gained a new appreciation for collaboration after doing so with Kanye West, and this ethos shines on Father of the Bride. Previous producer Ariel Rechtshaid returns, but he’s accompanied by the likes of DJ Dahi, Chromeo, BloodPop, Steve Lacy and even Batmanglij. Together, they create a pseudo-Graceland, a tapestry of world sounds from reggae to country, to prog, and even a little flamenco.
Danielle Haim of the eponymous band guests for three duets with Koenig, the highlight being the Johnny and June redux ‘Married in a Gold Rush’.
The album could have only come from an artist wholly comfortable in their vision, as Koenig contrasts the almost-uniformly upbeat production with esoteric lyrics regarding sociopolitical references, heartbreak, religion, class and environmental disasters.
The album’s biggest knock is that Koenig may be too comfortable, as the album’s eighteen songs begin to stretch the listener’s patience. Few are misses, but one can’t help but shake the feeling that if Koenig was as disciplined in his song selection as he was in creating them, then pundits would be tripping over themselves to label it a classic. Like The White Album, it’s a bit too sprawling and messy for its own good.
Of course, if he had been, then we might have missed out on ‘Bambina’, a straightforwardly sweet song under two minutes that is one of the best of that length in recent memory.
Father of the Bride isn’t a revelation. It won’t gain the band new converts. If you dismissed Koenig’s layered songwriting and worldly influences before, then you will do so again. Despite this, it is exactly the kind of record the band needed at this point in their life. It is in this sense of restlessness and curiosity that the album succeeds the most.
Standout Tracks: ‘Bambina,’ Married in a Gold Rush,’ ‘Unbearably White,’ ‘My Mistake,’