When we last left our heroes in Vampire Weekend, Ezra Koenig and company were contemplating some big questions. Closing out the trilogy of their debut, 2013's Modern Vampires of the City swam deep into the quarter-life crisis, mixing their worldly sound with darker tones and much more local topics like time, love, religion, and self-understanding. It debuted at number one, and was considered by many as one of the best albums of the year.
A lot has happened since. Studio shepherd Rostam Batmanglij departed to explore other work, and Koenig himself dove into new projects like an anime series, and perhaps most importantly had a son with girlfriend Rashida Jones. After an essential album filled with wonder about life, life happened.
Now after 6 years Vampire Weekend returns, packing up their winter of discontent clothes and opting for a large but breezy spring collection. Father of the Bride arrives with 18 songs, an hour worth of new music, and a list of collaborators far larger than they have ever had before. On paper that sounds like a heavy lift, but it unfolds as a more jangly, jamming, and surefooted chapter for the band.
Along the way VW get a few key assists from Mark Ronson, Hans Zimmer, and returning producer Ariel Rechtshaid. Rostam dips back in with some contribution, guitarist Steve Lacy shines on two tracks, and Danielle Haim of HAIM is woven in across the entirety of the album, like a new member of the group. It takes a few more minds to make up the larger Father of the Bride, but it all runs through Koenig for consistency.
As with all Vampire Weekend material, there are two waves of enjoyment. The first is a purely sonic delight, still layered and rich, but infused with more plucky acoustics and wilting steel guitar. The swelling sound of New York City which was the backdrop for Modern Vampires gives way to the chirps and gentle crashes of nature on FOTB.
The second is the subtext. Koenig has an exciting habit of packing songs with references and dual meanings, often leaving fans scrambling for annotations. The unpacking of that will come later, but for now, Father of the Bride, is tied together with the confidence of someone who survived the storm of their existential wonder.
Father of the Bride is now available everywhere.