Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride

by Tim Sentz Rating:7 Release Date:2019-05-03
Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride
Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride

Well, it’s finally here. Six years, one member departure (Rostam left in 2016, amicably), and a change to a major label later and we have Father of the Bride, the fourth album from Vampire Weekend. Back in 2008, it was pretty obvious when listening to their self-titled debut album that VW would be a huge act. Their tours across the world were heavily lauded, sold out in most markets, and they kept momentum through two more adored albums – 2010’s Contra, and 2013’s Grammy winning Modern Vampires of the City.

The world’s a very different place than it was in 2013 when Ezra Koenig and his cohorts released their most beloved album. And while it gets tiring having to explain that this is another album that feels like a direct response to the chaos of politics these days, it’s inescapable now, that’s just the way the world is. Father of the Bride feels like a bright sunshiny spot on a dismal world at times, the opposite feel we got on Modern Vampires of the City. This is a band less concerned with the darkness, and more focused on the positive. VW’s music has always felt a bit more illuminating to me, they capture the essence of youth with them and wear it on their sleeves prominently. From the afro-pop beginnings of their debut to the closing sentiments on Father of the Bride, VW’s assets have always been unmistakable.

For the most part, Father of the Bride is the formidable follow-up rabid fans have been expecting. At almost an hour long, Father of the Bride takes its Grateful Dead influences to the smoked out van and back. Die-hard fans won’t be disappointed, as this feels like a natural progression from MVoTC – a bit predictable but gratifying in multiple ways; a far cry from the sound of their debut on an indie label, their bank is bigger now, and with that comes a guestlist that ranges from Steve Lacy to Danielle Haim.

This time around, Vampire Weekend are firmly showing their influences. The Dead are all over this record, which is a good and a bad thing for the listener. Father of the Bride pays homage to the classic rock band by incorporating stylistic changes abruptly and servicing the appetites of budding Dead-heads through lavish experimentation that’s new for VW, but still ultimately playing safely into their wheelhouse. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this direction, but it does remind us that VW is a major label act now.

Father of the Bride feels mostly like a highlight reel for Vampire Weekend. Its range in styles don’t really help it stay the course, and instead feels like a playlist – something I’ve felt VW’s music benefits from. Some of the pivots feel forced or lazy almost, lacking that naturalness that previous LPs had. At times, Bride feels like a bit of a mess, because of the length of the record as well as the diversity. It’s a valiant return, but one that is overstuffed with guests, and lacks cohesion. While the album does dabble with the world we live in, from a more heart-warming perspective, it’s extremely ambitious at the same time which can be a tough pill to swallow for the casual listener.

A major drawback to Father of the Bride is how often it loses the rest of Vampire Weekend and instead feels like Ezra Koenig w/ guests. Polished production leaves contributions from bandmembers Chris Tomson and Chris Baio overshadowed by Danielle Haim and iLoveMakonnen. At times Father of the Bride feels like a Koenig solo record, instead of a collaborative effort. With the absence of Rostam, their long-time producer, and band member, the rotating list of collaborations and guest stars removes a bit of the soul to Vampire Weekend. What's left is an overly beefed up VW, one that feels positioned for longevity, regardless of content. 

A handful of tracks will be plucked for a “Best of VW” Spotify mix – “Hold You Now,” “Harmony Hall,” and “This Life” from the first half, and “Stranger” from the second half, but as a whole Father of the Bride had big shoes to fill after their career-defining third album, and it misses its mark more than it should. Still, it’s a competent album. One that will maintain it’s fanbase, and potentially expand to an older, unfamiliar crowd thanks to the Dead influence.  For everyone else though, it’s just another Vampire Weekend record, for better or worse.

Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hmmm. Interesting perspective. I wish you would explain the Dead connections.
I agree it feels more like a solo, but I think it is refreshing and different. Growth. It is a strong album IMHO.

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