If we’d have followed the natural trail that Vampire Weekend seemed to have laid in their time away, the follow-up to the impeccable ‘Modern Vampires of the City’ should have sounded very different to what we get on ‘Father of the Bride’. In the years since their last record, frontman Ezra Koenig has (among other things) relocated from New York to Los Angeles to settle down with an A-List actor, collaborated with SBTRKT on a fizzing, leftfield dance song and floated album titles such as ‘Mitsubishi Macchiato’. All which could reasonably have led fans to expect an album rife with experimentation and hip hop influences, a tearing up of the band’s script. Cue ‘Hold You Now’, ‘Father Of The Bride’’s first track, a lovelorn folk ditty and duet with Danielle Haim. What now?
Across its mighty 18 tracks, ‘Father Of The Bride’ shuns expectation, just not quite the ways we may have expected. In ‘Harmony Hall’ and ‘This Life’, Ezra Koenig has written two of the best ‘Vampire Weekend songs’ - in the traditional sense - and elsewhere has pushed his band’s sound to unexplored territories. ‘Sunflower’, one of two collaborations with The Internet’s Steve Lacy, is one of the most fascinating, creative pop songs of the past few years, while ‘Bambina’ is pure ecstasy. ‘Sympathy’ also surprises, shuffling its way through verses that could soundtrack a chase scene in a cowboy movie, before turning on a sixpence and harking back to Ezra’s SBTRKT collaboration ‘New Dorp. New York.’ on a propulsive dance breakdown.
The most striking thing about ‘Father Of The Bride’, especially when thinking back to the painfully preppy Columbia kids who emerged a decade ago, is its gleeful lack of pretension or traditional sense of ‘cool’. Danielle Haim pops up again on ‘Married In A Gold Rush’, another twangy folk number. It’s sickly sweet, and halfway to soundtracking a barn dance, Ezra singing “I just wanna go out tonight and make my baby proud.” But it’s delivered with such tenderness and feeling that your first reaction is to blush and grin. Having said this, when Danielle’s final guest spot comes on ‘We Belong Together’, the saccharine levels tip just a tad too far (10 points for rhyming “Keats and Yates” with “bowls and plates” though, Ezra).
Easy to laugh at, and all the more brave for it, ‘Father Of The Bride’ is a joyous, fearless listen that builds on Vampire Weekend’s steeped history while simultaneously paying less attention to it than ever. As a sample at the start of ‘Sympathy’ states: “I think I take myself too serious… it’s not that serious.”