When Vampire Weekend told the crowds at Lollapalooza last summer a new album was nearly complete, people went absolutely bonkers. Not fake bonkers either — I saw two strangers hug immediately. It was to be the album to end the group’s six-year musical drought, and all in attendance were feeling particularly grateful that night.
Eight months later, they announced their fourth album, “Father of the Bride,” will be released May 3. Four singles from the record are out, with “Harmony Hall” and “Sunflower” providing a promising glimpse into Vampire Weekend circa 2019.
I had hoped to see lead singer Ezra Koenig’s particular brand of lyricism — observant, skeptical, aristocratic — make an appearance in their next album — and they delivered with “Harmony Hall.”
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“Harmony Hall” is lovely. It’s soft and layered with precise acoustic guitar that seems to float under Koenig’s voice, providing the ideal background music to accompany a hammock session. Beneath the sun-dappled effervescence, though, is a more somber commentary that Vampire Weekend fans are familiar with.
When Koenig sings, “And the stone walls of Harmony Hall bear witness / Anybody with a worried mind could never forgive the sight / Of wicked snakes inside a place you thought was dignified / I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die,” he is touching on the existential disillusionment all of us feel at some point or another, brilliantly disguised in the buoyancy of the strumming.
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One of the more recent singles, “Sunflower,” features guitarist Steve Lacy of the band The Internet (the first featured artist Vampire Weekend has ever included on an album), who adds a sharp level of grooviness that is somewhat new to the band but fits like a glove.
What “Sunflower” has in funk, it matches in philosophy. Koenig gives us a brief peek into his arbitrary but keen contemplation with, “Strange thought upon the pillow / ‘What day demands a date?’” He then admits, “Well, I don’t know,” then laughs on-track.
The singles are decidedly less busy than their forefathers like “A-Punk” and “Cousins,” but we can probably take that as a byproduct of Vampire Weekend’s six-year maturation period. If these tunes signal what else is to come from “Father of the Bride,” the wait for May 3 will be a brutal one.