Vampire Weekend’s Father Of The Bride: A Song-By Song Album Review
The album that crosses complexity with simplicity, we don’t know what it is about, we just know it’s magical
If you listen to Vampire Weekend, all your problems will go away and I must admit, for this to actually work, you must be able to tolerate Vampire Weekend’s unique sound. A sound that’s hard to sink your teeth into if you’re into pop ballads and aggressive auto-tune raps, Vampire Weekend orchestrates their own sound, one you should listen to with a clean and empty pallet to fully consume the music for what it really is: a fine wine. It seems that with age, Vampire Weekend continues to blossom in the simplicities and complexities of life’s purpose.
The 18-track album holds ballads and harmonies that beg you to repeat until your record player combusts. I get so caught up listening to Ezra’s calculated lyrics, that I find myself wandering into a time slip losing chunks out of my day and wondering what day of the week it is.
Whether you are a die-hard Vampire Weekender or if this is the first time you’re hearing about the band, this album is worth every listen for the lyrics alone. This album has encouraged me to lay on the floor in the middle of the night, dance on my fiancé’s feet, and sit on the kitchen counter at 3 am wanting to talk about the universe. Here, I give you my observations on the album.
Don’t judge the album off of the first song, while unconventional of Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride has a motherly instinct to the album that missions to cradle and scold you all at once and it is magical.
- Hold You Now: This song is different than Vampire Weekend’s previous albums. I guess the unique progression of the song gives permission to lure me in. Featuring Danielle Haim, Vampire Weekend’s lyric’s in their first song on the album is,
“I know the reason why you think you gotta leave, promises of a future don’t make a case for me, I did my best to know the rest is hidden by the clouds, I can’t carry you forever, but I can hold you now”
Without an introduction to the song, the instrumentals are calming, and beg our ears to hug them. Ezra starts the song, and Danielle Haim responds, like a Johnny Cash, June Carter duet, it has those country song vibes. Sublime in messages, apologies, and truths, Hold You Now evokes buried feelings of love and loss as we enter the album, a sweet foreshadowing to what the album carries as a whole: contradictions and simplicities of the world.
I find myself getting lost in the conversation between the boy and the girl narrative in the song, the obnoxious relationship they have with each other, the obsession of repeating, “I can’t carry you forever, but I can hold you now” that points to a deeper meaning written in the sky, calming my nervous system and giving me a spare tire, I feel welcomed, intrigued and my internal conflicts feel resolved all at once. From the start of the album, the listener is cradled and conflicted which I think speaks volumes to the rest of the album. This song was meant to speak to us personally and literally. Vampire Weekend can’t carry you forever, but they certainly hold you in the ambiance of this album.
2. Harmony Hall: The second song on the album and the most popular on the radio, Harmony Hall reads just as the title suggests, a pleasing song full of divine chord progressions. A home for listeners to dwell in, the soothing “ooooh” progressions mixed with the instrumentals and the repeating line, “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die”, speaks to my inner child’s bedroom, growing up in a world of controversy, only to be expected to fix the problems you never caused as you age. I am reminded to share it all and be pulled back to harmony all at once. While the initial sound and chord progressions are deeply therapeutic, the lyrics beneath speak of a crisis in the world, toxic relationships, and the conflict the speaker has between himself and the world, the identities we wrestle with the emotions we are eternally faced with as humans,
“Anger wants a voice, Voices wanna sing, Singers harmonize,’Til they can’t hear anything, Thought that I was free, From all that questioning, But every time a problem ends, Another one begins”
Naming emotions is Ezra Koenig’s strength on this album and he is able to embed complicated subject matter within soothing melodies.
3. Bambina: My second favorite song on the album Bambina is a sweet anthem to the literal meaning, child and metaphorical meaning: the audience, America and mother Earth. Maybe this is simply because it sounds like it could be a church anthem at the beginning and then we are completely transported into a manipulated rhythm controlled by Ezra. Who knows who Ezra is really talking to, but the lyrics suggest Bambina could refer to America’s relationship with its people, or a complicated relationship that Ezra narrates. The repeated line,
“My Christian heart Cannot withstand The thundering arena I’ll see you when The violence ends For now, ciao ciao Bambina”
I’m reminded in this song of America and the themes that point to America’s relationship with the humans that inhabit and destroy it. Bambina is defined as a “young girl”, yet, Vampire Weekend leaves us to grapple with what this song is really about. Is Vampire Weekend referring to a personal relationship or humans relationship with the Earth? We will never know, yet, in such a simple way, Ezra Koenig is able to set our spirits free through simple imagery and breadcrumb reminders that music is meant to do just that.
4. This Life: Another light-hearted beat, Ezra intermingles the theme of love through the turmoils of love and loss. This Life and All This Suffering is repeated to open the doors to a paradoxical shift in the various levels of love. I can’t find a reason not to find this song catchy before you know it, you’ll find yourself repeating the chorus,
“I’ve been cheating on you, you’ve been cheating on me, but I’ve been cheating through this life, and all this suffering” ,
which has reaffirmed my intentions in finding my own freedom. Most of the time, I’m grappling with the binaries of the world, when in fact, those binaries are just making life more complicated. Problem solved by Vampire Weekend.
5. Big Blue: This song to me is a slow ballad and a love letter to Mother Earth. The lyrics, “Big blue for once in my life I felt close to you, I’m so overcome with emotion, when I was hurt and needed perfection, when I was tired and I couldn’t go home” — before starting to sound like I am reading to much into it here, I can assure you that there is credibility in Ezra’s lyrics that allude to the Earth we are surrounded by and live in. All the space that we inhabit, where we are challenged to face another day, yet, no matter how we treat Earth, it is always there unconditionally. This song reminds me that we are all connected, and that Earth is often taken for granted, it is unconditionally loving the people who trash it, and I guess that’s where we stay, stuck in the in-between.
6. How Long? This song on Vampire Weekend’s new album asks this question in the title repeated throughout the song. It is a catchy chorus, yet, carries deep and dark undertones. Mostly repeating,
“How long until we sink to the bottom of the sea, how long, how long?”
Unaware if Vampire Weekend is talking about his relationship or his relationship with many things that might make-up his identity, or the system’s relationship with the Earth. They ask the question periodically as to continue to direct our understanding of the question to mean a multitude of different things. I started to feel that this song was asking me how long would it be until I started thanking the Earth for being there, and how I would find the hope to go on, knowing that I don’t know everything. This song made me reflect on my own personal relationships which eliminated a lot of triggers I originally had.
7. Unbearably White:
This song paints a picture of an avalanche that is coming, and that you shouldn’t cover your eyes, it is what you thought that you wanted, it is still a surprise. It is hard on the body, it is hard on the mind. To learn what kept us together darling, here is what kept us alive.
Again, a reflection of something that could mean so many things. Vampire Weekend leaves a lot of songs on this album up to interpretation and open, which delivers an unbiased perception of what the song could be about. It could be about a relationship that turned sour, that the couple new was about to end, it could be about America’s unbearably White history, and the complicated relationship of being alive because of it. It is a warm, somber ballad, again, a paradoxical song filled with dualities. It calls my attention to relationships in my own life once again, and every time I listen to it, I think something different. I’ll never know the true meaning, but the fact that Vampire Weekend has been able to make me reflect on my own life, and the current climate all at once by song 7 speaks for itself.
8. Rich Man: A waltz-y song, that plays on the literal meaning of the song, and the metaphorical balance of power, it reminds me of a lot of things. The beat carries me around in a colonial waltz against my will, that deliver statistics about being THE ONE. Which I think alludes to the 1%. One minute in, and I’m considering that money really isn’t everything. Any odds to be one in a billion is a terrible trick you’re the wretched one, followed by a waltz-y ballad welcome a new perspective on how money doesn’t buy happiness. It reminds me that regardless of how the odds are stacked against us, if a lot of money is all that you got, you won’t be the one.
9. Married In A Gold Rush: Once again, a Johnny Cash and June Carter duet style song, reinvigorating the wedding bells through an arranged marriage between America and our president. It sounds that Ezra as he sings, “ I thought you might learn the language” , and Danielle Haim responds back, “I thought you would learn to sing” — suggests a marriage of offerings, a money marriage, rushed to make the country happy, yet, it does the opposite.
10. My Mistake: I like slower songs, especially with Vampire Weekend. Ezra’s voice is soothing, transcends me to the pond I was growing up next to, and the relaxation of the ripples in the water. I like that Ezra is able to make a slow ballad sound scary, even morose and ambigious. I like not knowing the purpose of this song, I like that it isn’t a predictable ballad, that the chorus doesn’t repeat a million times. In Vampire Weekend’s case, it is the possibility of giving its audience hope through its instrumentals and then taking it away quickly with a chord progression. Their lyrics, “Hoping for kindness was my greatest mistake” — possibly gives a strong sense of trust in America(if we’re running with this), this song is able to remind me of.
11. Sympathy: I love the way this song is formed. There is a shift in Vampire Weekend’s relationship here, by the way, in that sympathy is used as a willingness to suggest the little sympathy that’s used as an opportunity to carry on. The beat is pronounced in this song, one you could definitely stomp your feet to, which further pushes the paradoxical meaning between sensitivity and anger further. An oddity to the word, this message paints sympathy in a dark, dim-lit room.
12. Sunflower: I don’t know what to do with this song, but I love it. My favorite song on the album, the conversation from album to audience, talks to you about the sunflower. I think we should acknowledge that sunflowers are powerful flowers, they grow outside, in harsh conditions regardless of anyone else. They grow tall, and unnerving. The beat is quirky, which I think alludes to the power of being a sunflower alone, and how powerful it can be to combat evil, as VW states in their lyrics, “Sunflower standing in the garden, let that evil wait”, alone, I don’t doubt the message they are sending.
13. Flower Moon: Put after Sunflower, VW suggests, that the company of the sun if it doesn’t make things bright, that flower moon in the evenings can bring major changes and growth in the darkness. Someone else could deal with the right place, wrong time with the heaviness of the voice that interjects as the light toned ooo’s come in behind. The normal me would think this was a funky song, after re-listening to it, I’ve noticed a shift in its meaning. Current me thinks that this song actually continues to encourage growth, even if the sun doesn’t make things bright and I think that moves mountains for me.
14. 2021: I won’t move back home because I won’t compromise. I won’t budge. I refuse to believe that I have to chose either my career or not being lonely. Texas might be stubborn, but it gave birth to me and the student can now rival the master. I think I can have both, right where I am. I see other people do it all the time. (And yes, I do realize women have both amazing careers and husbands in Texas, I’m not that narrow-minded). I just want both in Brooklyn. I want to have chosen where I live, not because I was born there, but because I found a place, fell in love with it, and built something for myself there. I want to see what both the things I want look like here. Maybe then I’ll go home.
15. We Belong Together: Single life can be confusing. Not just in trying to riddle out the behavior of the opposite sex, but in the very nature of how difficult it is, and why. Wasn’t this supposed to be fun? When did it become a chore, something I dread? I don’t think it was ever supposed to turn out this way. I’ve never really be able to “explain” why I’m single. The only reasoning that’s ever come close to making sense is that I don’t live in Texas. And for now, I’m okay with the possibility that it might be truth.
16. Stranger: Back to an upbeat melody, “Things have never been stranger, I I I I, Things are gonna stay strange, I I I I, I remember left as a stranger, I I I I, but things change”, VW brings us back to large themes of life, and I’m left guessing what this song is really about. The duality of the times, of staying indoors is another sign of life, a nod to the COVID crisis and the current climate or the reflections of a relationships lost and found? Ezra leaves it up to you to decipher.
17. Spring Snow: The title alone signifies that East coast Spring we all either love or wish would go away. The season that signifies new life often is clouded by the lengthy winters and we’re forced to wait, “The snow fell last night Your flight couldn’t leave Come back to the bed Let’s take this reprieve It felt like the end The end’s been delayed You’re here in my arms So what should I say?” — alluding to a relationship that needs to end, but stays together for the comfort of it all, the Earth that continues to go on despite the seasons we’re supposed to acknowledge, this song rings familiarity to multiple realities we can all relate to.
This song to me is a slow ballad, a love letter towards Mother Earth. This song reminds me of Father of the Bride’s cover of a blue Earth. The lyrics, “Big blue for once in my life I felt close to you, I’m so overcome with emotion when I was hurt and needed perfection when I was tired and I couldn’t go home” — before starting to sound like I am reading to much into it here, I can assure you that there is credibility in Ezra’s lyrics that allude to the Earth we are surrounded by and live in. All the space that we inhabit, where we are challenged to face another day, yet, no matter how we treat Earth, it is always there unconditionally. This song reminds me that we are all connected and that Earth is often taken for granted, it is unconditionally loving the people who trash it, and I guess that’s where we stay, stuck in the in-between.
18. Jerusalem, New York, Berlin: Ending the album with this timid, quiet and soft song is interesting. The whole album feels like it’s been all over the place in such a good way, this song at the end is able to slow us back down for the album to make its final statement, “I know I loved you then I think I love you still But this prophecy of ours Has come back dressed to kill Three stones on a mountain Three small holes in a field You’ve given me the big dream But you can’t make it real” — Ezra seems to be reflecting on three places that he may identify with, he seems to take steps away from the immediate relationship that could’ve been danced with throughout the album and points the finger at everyone in the world. He urges everyone to let them win the battle, but don’t let them restart, the genocidal feeling that beats in every heart, the idea of losing ourselves in our relationship with everyone else, instead of thinking about what could be instead.
It’s such a quiet, soft song with such a big message and I think that’s where Ezra is able to show his true genius. Music is our way to connect to others, it’s the permission slip in to other’s experiences, the gifted empathy we all can relate to. This album nailed the paradox, able to cross over to intimate relationships, friendships, familial relationships, our relationship with our Earth, the government, anything can be applied and I think that’s the all the glitter is gold in music. Especially well, thought-out music.
Vampire Weekend’s: Father Of The Bride album, has nailed the contrast between complexity and simplicity on its head. It isn’t just about how relatable the lyrics are, or what we think the whole album represents. It’s about all the things that the album could be about. Ezra Koenig is able to transcend evolution, the themes of change, contradictions, paradigms and everything in between. No matter how many times you listen, you’ll always take something new away from this album and I guess that’s the impression Vampire Weekend wants to leave you with.