Chris Tomson

Father of the Bride: Album Review

On Friday, one of my most anticipated albums of the last year came out. Since early 2018, I’ve been waiting for the release a new Vampire Weekend record. Friday it happened. Vampire Weekend’s latest album, since Modern Vampires of the City came out in 2013, Father of the Bride was released. The album’s been teased for months with the release of singles like “Harmony Hall”, “2021”, “Sunflower”, “Big Blue”, and most recently “This Life” and “Unbearably White”. Finally the full album is out and I must say it’s not what I was expecting, but it hasn’t disappointed me yet either.

Father of the Bride is one of those albums that need to grow on you. It’s clear that in the last six years things have changed for frontman and songwriter Ezra Koenig as well as for the band itself (original member Rostam Batmanglij left the band in 2016). The sound is much more different than prior Vampire Weekend records. Koenig’s vocals are the one thing that distinguishes many of the new tracks as being Vampire Weekend songs. There are elements of country, jam, and pop in the record, which is much different from the former albums that have taken sounds from music of other cultures.

Another new addition to this album is the collaboration with Danielle Haim from the sister trio group Haim. She’s featured on three tracks and provides background vocals for a few other songs as well. As a big Haim fan, I’m into this. I never expected the collaboration, but I sort of love it? It adds a female voice to Vampire Weekend that didn’t exist prior. The songs featuring Haim are the ones that sound much different than typical Vampire Weekend. I do like it, but I also kind of wish the songs were more Vampire Weekend sounding with a Haim addition instead of being more Haim sounding with a Vampire Weekend addition.

It’s evident that with FOTB Vampire Weekend has grown and matured in life and in music. In fact, I noticed while seeing them at Lollapalooza last summer that the people attending their set were all older, probably in their 30’s or late 20’s, which if you’ve been to Lolla you know is rare because there’s an overflow of high school and college kids every where. It was pretty cool. So I guess in a way with their new music, Vampire Weekend is growing with their fans. Overall I like the album. I don’t love it. There are a few tracks that are sure bangers, mainly “Harmony Hall” and “This Life”.  The rest really need to grow on me. As I listen to the album more and more though in preparation of seeing Vampire Weekend in concert in September I’m sure I’ll be into a few more songs. I’ll probably still be jamming to “A-Punk”, “Walcott”, “Unbelievers”, and “Oxford Comma” though too. And if you’re a big Vampire Weekend fan I’m sure you’ll be doing the same.

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First the Window, Then It’s to the Wall

Last week I worked my third Lollapalooza in the box office/ticketing department, but for the first time, I managed my own ticket help. Lolla was where I started working in ticketing 2 years ago so it felt like a full circle moment being able to work Lolla in a higher position. Another full circle moment happened on Saturday night when I was able to see Vampire Weekend. I found out about the band in 2008 way before I was even into the indie rock scene. A friend of mine in my Music 101 class in college told me about them. He was also the first person to tell me about Lollapalooza so being able to say the first time I saw Vampire Weekend was at Lollapalooza is super cool and special to me. All that aside, much like Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend is back from their 5 year hiatus and will be releasing a new album soon!

Vampire Weekend was formed when founding members Ezra Koenig (vocals, guitar), Chris Tomson (drums), Chris Baio (bass, backing vocals), and Rostam Batmanglij (keyboard) were in college at Columbia University. Their name comes from a summer project of Koenig’s inspired by the 1980 film The Lost Boys. With the project, he decided to create basically the Northeastern version of the film. The project also inspired the song “Walcott” as well even though he abandoned it after working on the short film for only a few days. The band started playing shows around 2006 by performing at battle of the bands around Columbia. Then in 2007 they opened for The Shins on their UK tour. They self-produced their self-titled debut album while simultaneously working full time jobs. The album was released on January 29, 2008. It peaked at number 17 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart and number 15 on the UK Albums Chart.

Vampire Weekend’s second album Contra was released just short of 2 years later. It debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200. The band also began a large festival circuit in 2010 making stops at Coachella, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and Glastonbury. They had played their first Lollapalooza the previous summer. They also toured in support of the album in 2010. Contra was nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Album, but did not win.

Their most recent album to date Modern Vampires of the City was released in May 2013 after much talk of its release in 2011 and 2012. Like Contra, it debuted at number 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums Chart making them the first indie rock band to accomplish this feat with two consecutive albums. The album won Vampire Weekend a Grammy for Best Alternative Album in 2014.

In 2016, Rostam Batmanglij announced his leave from Vampire Weekend via Twitter, but also noted that he would still continue to collaborate with Ezra Koenig. Koenig confirmed this by saying the band was working on a new album with help from Batmanglij. At Lollapalooza last week, the band announced that the 4th album was complete after playing a set list of all old hits including the song “A-Punk” three times in a row to open the set (…and I missed it!).

Vampire Weekend is a pretty standard indie rock band. Their sound is a mixture of indie rock, indie pop, baroque pop, afro-pop, and art pop. Most of their hits have an upbeat, joyfulness to their sound. You can’t help but want to dance to their tracks like “A-Punk”, “Unbelievers”, or “Diane Young”.

As I said, I found out about Vampire Weekend 10 years ago. I kept up with them by periodically adding songs to my iTunes as new releases would come out. I never saw them live though, until last week. They were on my “must-see” list for a while. Since seeing them last week, I haven’t been able to stop listening to them. It was like Lollapalooza revitalized Vampire Weekend for me. It did the same thing for me last year with The Killers. I guess that’s another reason why I like Lollapalooza so much.

If you haven’t been listening to Vampire Weekend for the last 10 years or started somewhere in between there, here’s my call for you to listen to them asap. An album release date for their fourth full length has yet to be announced, but it’s coming soon! I’m sure I’ll probably review it once it’s out, but until then there’s tons of jams to help you wait it out. I swear. Like Lil Jon, I always tell the truth.