Six years is quite the amount of time to wait. At this time six years ago, I was in high school, staying up at night thinking about what it meant to become a junior in high school and still reveling in the joys of the driver’s license I’d acquired five months prior. I played Vampire Weekend in my first car; I had no idea that the next time I'd hear new music from the band, I'd be 22 and leaving college. But here we are. Vampire Weekend’s discography has finally expanded with Father of the Bride, the double-album anxiously awaited by a cohort of dedicated fans.
Vampire Weekend’s fourth album follows the acclaimed Modern Vampires of the City, which Pitchfork called the best album of 2013. We had the first tastes of the band’s return via singles, which slowly crept their way onto streaming services. “Harmony Hall” was the first, released in early 2019, and an open-armed welcome — the thrumming guitar opener felt familiar, as did some of the lyrics. The line “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die,” is a callback to “Finger Back” of Modern Vampires.
Much like I matured in the six-year gap between records, so did the group’s sound. The signature VW cleverness is there, but some of the Father of the Bride lyrics seem to present a different worldview than found on previous records. As repeated in the chorus of “This Life”: “I've been cheating on, cheating on you/You've been cheating on me/But I've been cheating through this life and all its suffering/Oh Christ, am I good for nothing?” Frontman Ezra Koenig himself even referred to the album as a sort of new beginning.
The journey to this new selection of music at times felt monotonous and hopeless. At one point the record boasted the title Mitsubishi Macchiato, according to Koenig’s 2017 Instagram post. For myself and others, Koenig’s account became a bit of a desperate grasp for clues as to what the album was and when it would finally show up. The initials of the title and release dates for numerous singles were posted in January of this year — finally, a concrete piece of information to hang onto.
By the time Father of the Bride’s May 3 release date came around, Koenig had become a father and made public his relationship with Rashida Jones, as well as released an anime series, Neo Yokio, on Netflix. Instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij had departed the group to pursue solo endeavors.
But Father of the Bride is finally here, and — thank goodness — it's good. “Hold You Now” starts things off with a Koenig-Danielle Haim duet, a track whose gentle strums, background chorus and steady drum add an unexpected dose of country. The relationship conveyed in this song carries through two other tracks, “Married in a Gold Rush” and “We Belong Together”; although the latter sounds much more “musical-finale-sing-along” than the rest of the melodies.
Two of the shorter tracks, “Big Blue” and “Bambina," clock in at around a minute and a half and serve as lighter transition periods throughout the lengthy record. “Jerusalem, New York, Berlin” closes the album with a sobering take on missed relationships that matches the overarching tone of maturity and realization.
So was the wait worth all of the hype? I'd argue yes.
Father of the Bride might not be my favorite of Vampire Weekend’s discography — it lacks some of the brooding bops that made Modern Vampires excellent (i.e. “Hannah Hunt”) — but the ambition and effort rings true in most of the new record's 18 tracks. This album has been slightly sapped of the carefree energy fueling the band’s earlier tracks, but honestly, I prefer it that way. Music is a tool of nostalgia and growth. If our favorite and most-respected artists aren’t growing along with us after all these years, how can we continue to relate?
Today, my handful of college applications have been traded out for endless job applications. My license is updated, and my car is thousands of miles and a cross-country trip older, but you will still find me at the wheel with a Vampire Weekend album on the stereo. After all, we did wait six years.