Vampire Weekend – From ‘A-Punk’ to Z

Vampire Weekend, a group formed in 2006 by four chino-clad, horchata-sipping Columbia graduates, just released their third consecutive US number one album – clearly, these kids still stand a chance.

Since the release of their eponymous album in 2008, Vampire Weekend has mercilessly dominated the indie scene. Presenting a clunky hybrid of indie rock, afro pop, reggae and folk, it’s safe to say that critics didn’t know quite what to make of the four-piece’s debut. Frontman Ezra Koenig used his wry, drawling vocals to scrutinize the gratuitous use of the ‘Oxford Comma’, marvel at French architecture (‘Mansard Roof’) and detail a New York bus route (‘M79’), all the while accompanied by harpsichord, electric guitar, bongos and orchestral strings. It shouldn’t have made sense, but it did.

2010’s ‘Contra’ was a brave continuation of their Graceland-inspired ‘afro-prep’ style. Multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij’s arrangements are colourful yet careful; the 80s circuit board beeps and vocal gymnastics of ‘White Sky’ deliciously juxtapose the rhythmic marimba and slick production of ‘Horchata’. The sheer volume and variety of external influences drawn on by Koening & co. sets Vampire Weekend apart from the crowd, giving the music a longevity that outlasted the 2000s ‘indie’ scene.

The group’s brooding third album, ‘Modern Vampires of the City’ represents a depart from the jaunty guitar licks of its predecessors; the tracks on this 2013 release are melancholy and self-aware, with lyrics full of angst and anxiety: ‘Wisdom’s a gift/But you’d trade it for youth’ (‘Step’). Packed with hymn-like harmonies, the album deals with the heavy ideas of mortality and faltering faith. From the relentless snares of ‘Diane Young’ (a play on ‘dying young’) to the quick-spouted verses of ‘Worship You’, ‘MVOTC’ characterizes itself by its unwavering sense of urgency.

A sprawling six-year gap separated Vampire Weekend’s third and fourth releases; Batmanglij left the group to pursue solo projects, whilst Koenig headed west with long-term partner Rashida Jones. When ‘Father of The Bride’ did arrive in May of this year, it proved to be the group’s most experimental work to date. Vampire Weekend’s first collaborative release, ‘FOTB’, flies liberally through music genres. The lead single, ‘Harmony Hall’, bears several similarities to George Michael’s ‘Freedom ‘90’ with its rousing piano accompaniment. Equally, contributions from Danielle Haim and Steve Lacy bring both country and jazz styles into the musical mix. The piano-bar jazz of the moody ‘My Mistake’ is at the opposite end of the spectrum to ‘How Long’, with its mischievous, bass-driven melodies. As a result, ‘Father of the Bride’ has a real ‘group project’ feel to it; instead of seeking a replacement for Batmanglij, Koening has simply widened his musical net, and with great success. With reports of a fifth album on the way, we can only hope for more of the same.

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