Whereas Vampire Weekend’s initial trilogy of albums may have illustrated a progression of the band through different stages of maturity, it’s on Father of the Bride where the band stops and questions whether growth is worth it in a world on fire. The newly released double album transgresses through an hour of existential lyricism that addresses issues of climate change, extremism, and heartbreak.
Father of the Bride shifts significantly from previous albums—Vampire Weekend, Contra, and Modern Vampires of the City— in not just its thematic approaches, but also in the lyrics. Often recognized for his vast vocabulary, frontman Ezra Koenig strips back to simpler (but not simple) words to drive the lyrical point across. While serving as an album that separates itself from its precedents, FotB nevertheless depends on past songs to link discographies and concepts. With the return of their use of world music, like on “This Life,” or the flamenco-tinged “Sympathy,” the band members remind us why their music was so often compared to Paul Simon’s masterpiece, Graceland.
On “Harmony Hall,” Koenig repeats “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die,” previously sung more frantically on 2013’s “Finger Back,” but now sung with a higher degree of introspection—introspection only supported through lyrics like “How long ’til we sink to the bottom of the sea?” In context, these lyrics strike deeper after following the ocean love song “Big Blue.”
Despite its anxieties regarding the future of the world, Father of the Bride basks in optimism, especially by noting that we can get by with a little help from our friends. Making repeat features on the album are HAIM’s Danielle Haim, and The Internet’s Steve Lacy, who both add depth and range to already brilliant music. Together with Vampire Weekend, they serve us a warning coupled with calls to action to create a world we can live in.