Album Review

Vampire Weekend - Only God Was Above Us

Their most accomplished album yet.

Vampire Weekend - Only God Was Above Us

While most will remember 2019’s ‘Father of the Bride’ as a divisive release, it’s probably important to remember there hasn’t been a point at which Vampire Weekend have been a universally loved act; from the moment they bounded over the hill as fresh Ivy League graduates in vividly-hued polo shirts pondering architectural particulars they’ve laid claim to be musical Marmite. And, given that the essence of this fifth full-length pulls wholly from past material - the swooping piano stabs and rollocking drum fills that characterise their self-titled debut and ‘Contra’; the warmth, introspection and debt to hip hop that peppered ‘Modern Vampires of the City’ - it’d be hard to suggest ‘Only God Was Above Us’ would be a record to silence the haters.

What it is, however, is a rich, textured record that oozes with warmth; full of sonic layers clearly laboured over in intricate detail, yet never sounding painstakingly so. A playful snippet of tape reversal appears to open the subtly shuffling ‘Classical’, while ‘Capricorn’ builds like a skyscraper, contrasting abrasive noise after noise with its soothingly-delivered hook, “You don’t have to try.” A trademark piano motif swoops through ‘Connect’, while an organ fizzles underneath alongside both a bubbly double bass and intermittent synth bloops. The hazy, melancholy ‘The Surfer’ pairs a hip hop rhythm section with whirling, dream-like strings and a late-‘60s psych-like guitar line. All the while still sounding only like Vampire Weekend.

The record’s dual centrepiece - and perhaps the spot where cynics might yet be turned - is a true gem. First, ‘Gen-X Cops’ is a blistering slice of urgent noise-pop that contrasts plinky pianos with deliciously abrasive guitars and is at once straightforward earworm and delightfully obtuse (just what does “Each generation makes their own apologies” mean, anyway? And why won’t it leave one’s head?). Then, upping the contrast levels if losing a few in immediacy, ‘Mary Boone’ (itself a Vampire Weekend staple as niche New York City reference - the self-styled Martha Stewart of the art world, she was imprisoned for tax fraud in 2019) offers an increasingly disconcerting baroque choir contribution atop the instantly-familiar, grounding, sampled beat of Soul II Soul’s ‘Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)’. If you’re going to make your first foray into sample usage, best make it a classic.

So, taking all the wide-eyed playfulness of their earlier work, and the confidence in creating a sonic tapestry of their latter, ‘Only God Was Above Us’ is both their most accomplished and most Vampire Weekend album yet.

Tags: Vampire Weekend, Reviews, Album Reviews

Read More

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Stay Updated!

Get the best of DIY to your inbox each week.

Latest Issue

April 2024

With Bob Vylan, St Vincent, girl in red, Lizzy McAlpine and more.

Read Now Buy Now Subscribe to DIY