A deep inhale; followed by a great sigh of relief. “Hold You Now” opens Vampire Weekend’s long-awaited fourth studio album, ‘Father of the Bride,’ in a way that makes you feel like you’re seeing an old friend who’s changed a lot. They’ve matured, settled down, made some new friends along the way and you’re happy that they’re doing so well.
That’s the best analogy I can use to describe my feelings after listening to ‘Father of the Bride’ for the first time. Playing catch up with an old friend is hard; there’s a looming feeling of reticence when you first see them again. Where do you start? What do you ask them? Thankfully, lead singer Ezra Koenig finds a way to answer all of your questions, even some you might not have even thought to ask. In an 18-song double LP, there’s time for a little bit of everything, and miraculously, none of it feels like wasted time whatsoever. Each song, even the shorter tracks such as “Bambina,” “2021,” and “Big Blue” are so densely layered in their instrumentation that you still find them compelling. Seriously, this the best production on any Vampire Weekend album to date.
If you thought ‘Modern Vampires of the City’ was a big shift sonically, well ‘Father of the Bride’ finds a way to push the group even further, and oftentimes in different directions. Notwithstanding, the group amicably split with keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij in 2016. But his absence isn’t a dealbreaker on this record. In fact — the group has never sounded bigger. That’s partly do to the numerous collaborations on this record. HAIM member Danielle Haim lends her croon to a trilogy of duets— “Hold You Now,” “Married in a Gold Rush,” and “We Belong Together”— that dip into country and Americana influences. Another collaboration comes with guitarist Steve Lacy (of The Internet fame) on the funk-spectacles of “Sunflower” and “Flower Moon.”
You might be asking yourself how country, Americana, funk and pop, and even elements of house all fit neatly into one album. Admittedly, these shifts stretch the album in different directions, yet you never get the feeling that it’s starting to break apart. ‘Father of the Bride’ is like a Hawaiian pizza: ham, pineapple, cheese and tomato seem like an overwhelming combination – and they are – but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it.
Top 5: “How Long,” “Harmony Hall,” “Jerusalem, New York, Berlin,” “Unbearably White,” “Sympathy”