Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride sees the group return with an upbeat, indie-pop styling that will be immediately familiar to longtime fans, but Ezra Koenig and company also have a few pleasantly surprising tricks up their sleeves on the new LP.
When compared to Vampire Weekend’s past projects, the first standout detail listeners are likely to notice on Father of the Bride is the presence of Danielle Haim on tracks throughout the album’s sprawling 18-song run-time. (Apparently, much of the album was recorded in her home studio.) Haim, who plays something like a character on the LP, serves as Koenig’s partner in a few soothing and undeniably catchy duets — the album’s opening track, “Hold You Now,” was particularly powerful. Also notable is the absence of multi-instrumentalist and producer Rostam Batmanglij, who officially left the band in 2016 to focus on his solo career but collaborated with Vampire Weekend on a few Father of the Bride tracks.
Father of the Bride feels very different in tone from Vampire Weekend’s last project, 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City, which saw the band depart from its more whimsical songwriting in favor of a more despondent, haunting soundscape. Father of the Bride, however, feels like a return to form in many ways — much of the album feels bright and oddly optimistic, as if the group has emerged from the depths of Modern Vampires of the City with a refreshed outlook on life. Father of the Bride is also far less dense than much of the band’s earlier work, which was sodden with allusions and obscure references. By contrast, the new LP sees an already-sort-of-accessible group become even easier to digest — not inherently a downfall, but something that some fans may view as a worrying veer toward the mainstream.
While the band takes less risks with its lyricism this time around, the same cannot be said for its instrumentation. In typical Vampire Weekend fashion, Father of the Bride sports an innovative, cross-cultural sound, with a notable uptick in melodic guitar sections when compared to past efforts (see Steve Lacy’s contributions on “Sunflower” and “Flower Moon“).
In totality, Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride is a fun, loose listen that should satisfy longtime fans with its exemplary instrumentation and new listeners with its digestible, relatable lyricism. The group’s core fanbase is unlikely to regard the album as its best work, but it brings just enough innovation to the table to feel at home in Vampire Weekend’s celebrated discography.