What happens in six years?
Couples and marriages are formed, kids are born, life happens, graduations happen. This is how long Vampire Weekend has been away from the public eye ever since they released their last album, 2013’s magnum opus “Modern Vampires of the City” and, during that time, they really did not have a good reason to release anything else. Their discography, although fairly short (only three albums in), remains one of the most compelling and absurdly clever documents of any band in the new century and with every record they’ve upped the ante and released a stunning and charming collection of songs that seem to age wonderfully.
If so, why is it a cause for concern that now, after so long, they’ve decided to follow up that record with this year’s upcoming Sony-backed fourth LP, “Father of the Bride”? Well, the answer may not be apparent to anyone unfamiliar with the band’s recent history.
In early 2016, producer, keyboardist, songwriter and general arranger for the band, Rostam Batmanglij, publicly retired from the group in order to pursue other projects and, although he maintained that he would be involved in upcoming Vampire Weekend, his involvement in the new LP seems to be measured at best, and it’s only natural that the band’s very literal leading voice, songwriter Ezra Koenig, would step up to the plate in such a situation and not try to recreate the band’s old glory, but travel in some new, undiscovered roads, which may not lead to the same results as we’ve come to expect from the band.
Other than Koenig, everyone in the band managed to put out solo work during the band’s off years, and even Mr. Ezra himself released an original Netflix anime-turned-satire show called Neo Yokio starring Jaden Smith, which could be in and of itself a cause for concern: has he lost the plot in his creative endeavors? Is the new music going to be unfocused now that he has more on his plate? But the results may not be as clear as Neo Yokio’s divisive, visceral reacting from the critics.
“Harmony Hall” and “2021”, the new singles off the new record seem to indicate that Koenig has taken the last few years too hard and that he’s ready for action. Quoting a minor track in the group’s past effort, the former single takes an acoustic guitar loop and sprinkles instrumentation until a wave of gospel singers, bongos and more country-style guitars bring the story back to the ground, while the dreamy, short “2021” uses Jenny Lewis’ voice to allure some kind of prediction about the narrator’s near future.
Expected to have collaborations from everyone including The Internet’s Steve Lacy, Diplo, hotshot producer BloodPop and their own ex member Batmanglij, “Father of the Bride” may not be the trip we are used to take with this band, but it is certain to be at least an interesting and unknown one, as we discover what these great songwriters are capable of when stacked against the current, ever-changing musical landscape of 2019. Maybe they can wait three years after all, but they shouldn’t wait six.