Tag Archives: this life

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

25 Nov

In May of this year, indie pop-rock mainstays Vampire Weekend released their fourth full-length album, Father of the Bride. We are aware, yes, that we are a little late with this review; but with the end of the year coming up fast, we thought it best to close the loop on some albums that we haven’t gotten around to reviewing just yet.

Vampire Weekend burst onto the scene, almost literally, with a sparkling, eponymous debut album about a decade ago. Their sound was a mystifying mix of mainstream and hipster – think clean-cut prep school kid with surprisingly deep life experiences. That first album had songs like “Oxford Comma”, literally devoted to a grammatical element (but a hipster one!), and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”, a juxtaposition of idyllic New England summers and Congolese dance.

The next two albums, Contra (2010) and Modern Vampires of the City (2013), had a similarly well-traveled mishmash of sights and sounds, with hits like “Horchata” and “Diane Young”. Although their sound was a little more grown-up, the essence remained intact. Things are now different, though, with the departure of one Rostam Batmanglij.

Vampire Weekend, in its original iteration, was a four-piece consisting of vocalist / guitarist Ezra Koenig, guitarist Batmanglij, bassist Chris Baio, and drummer Chris Tomson. Koenig and Batmanglij had a great song-writing partnership. Batmanglij’s wildly creative, global influences provided, in our minds, the X-factor to the band’s otherwise tidy sound. In January 2016, Batmanglij left the band to pursue solo projects – and this is the first Vampire Weekend album without him.

Vampire Weekend without Batmanglij essentially becomes an Ezra Koenig project. That’s not necessarily always a bad thing. For one, Koenig’s ability to write a great indie pop song is perhaps unrivalled today. Also, Koenig now has a celebrity status (see: has a child with girlfriend Rashida Jones, has a Netflix series and an Apple Music radio show) that allows him to pull together a galaxy of musical guests onto the project. The end result, however, is pleasant, charming, polite – and ultimately a bore.

Our readers may be surprised by this assessment; we have, over the past year, done our fair share of gushing over the album’s singles (see here and here). When all the pieces are put together, however, Father of the Bride paints a different picture. It’s the soundtrack to your child’s pastel-themed second-birthday-party. It’s the backdrop to the flowery end of a romcom. It is the sound of entering your mid-thirties considerably less cool than you were in your twenties – albeit armed with a sensible savings account and a postcard-perfect house.

Father of the Bride is packed with fantastic, beautiful songs that deserve to be heard. There are some truly beautiful riffs on here, from the bright “Sunflower” to the deft “Harmony Hall” . Danielle Haim of HAIM joins Koenig for three pretty duets, most notably on the folksy opener “Hold You Now”. It’s a great album – just don’t expect the old Vampire Weekend.

Best songs: “Harmony Hall”, “Sunflower”, “This Life”

Monthly Playlist: Apr. 2019

2 May

We’re back with another edition of the Monthly Playlist! This month’s songs range from Los Angeles lo-fi to Japanese indie rock and more – read on for all the deets.

5. “38’s” by The Vanities

“38’s”, by Glaswegian garage punk band The Vanities, is a whiskey-soaked vignette about drunken nights that last so late you miss the bus back home (ostensibly, the 38 in Glasgow). Within the first few seconds, Vanities drummer Craig Fellowes bursts in at a frenetic pace that never quite lets off over the song’s entire three-minute mark – but don’t let the percussion overwhelm you. The winning element here is the Vanities’ ability to paint a witty, entertaining picture of an inebriated evening. “Wasteland sights, apart from prozzies and rubble / Thirty quid for the night, far from subtle, she’s trouble / I’m coming down now, I wish I’d made my vodka a double,” goes the tune, perfectly encapsulating that no-man’s-land age between late teens and early adulthood (the band’s four members are all in their early twenties).

If you get the feeling that the Vanities’ experiences are cut from the same cloth as the gin-soaked, unsuccessful-clubbing escapades that shaped Arctic Monkeys’ debut album, you are absolutely right. There is a lot more to anticipate from the Vanities, and we are here for it.

4. “Why’d You Have to Act Like That Though” by Inner Wave

Why’d You Have to Act Like That Though”, by LA-based five-piece Inner Wave, is a chill, lo-fi psych rock track that brings to mind a mix of Mac de Marco and Lonerism-era Tame Impala. The track starts off with a slightly off-kilter melody, layered under spoken-word musings in the style of Julian Casablancas (it’s no accident – the five bandmates apparently grew up listening to the Strokes in the early aughts). Seamlessly, lead singer Pablo Sotelo melts into a hypnotic, repeated chorus – “I’ve been missing you, I’ve been missing you, I swear”; and before you know it, the song’s over. It’s loopy, lo-fi and catchy as hell, and had us pressing the replay button more than a few times. Be sure to keep an eye out for Inner Wave’s upcoming album, wyd, out on May 17.

3. “This Life” by Vampire Weekend

By this point, Vampire Weekend have an unmistakable sound to them. Whether it’s Ezra Koenig’s earnest voice, the Beach Boys-esque pleasantness of the guitars, or the harmonic choral elements, it is fairly straightforward to pick out a Vampire Weekend song from any random lineup. On “This Life”, from the upcoming album Father of the Bride, Vampire Weekend takes their cornucopia of congeniality to a gloomy tale of broken dreams. “Baby, I know pain is as natural as the rain / I just thought it didn’t rain in California,” sings Koenig, hiding the darkness behind a veneer of jangly Americana. It gets worse: “You’ve been cheating on, cheating on me / I’ve been cheating on, cheating on you,” he confesses a few lines later. With its genial music and its weighty lyrics, “This Life” is a great tune that works across two very different angles. Highly recommend this song and album.

Father of the Bride is out on May 3.

2. “Pretty Old Man” by No Buses

No Buses are a Japanese indie rock band heavily influenced by the 2000s garage rock revival sound. Of course, they aren’t the first with that set of influences. It’s easy enough to write a simple, easygoing tune, but what really surprises the listener about No Buses is their ability to create an instant earworm. On “Pretty Old Man”, No Buses weave a love story with at least one geriatric participant, in between roving guitar riffs and steady-as-can-be drums. The result is an earnest homage to the likes of early Arctic Monkeys (even down to the band’s name) and Oasis without coming off too saccharine. A tough feat, but one that No Buses manage well. We’re excited to hear more from them soon.

1. “Power is Power” by SZA, The Weeknd and Travis Scott

Ten years from now, in the annals of pop culture history, April 2019 will be heralded as an historic month, for two book-to-Technicolor transformations: the end of Marvel’s Avengers comic book saga with Endgame, and the final season of the record-busting Game of Thrones. For GoT fans who want to augment their visual and cinematic experiences, the TV show released For the Thrones, a soundtrack inspired by the characters and thematic elements onscreen. “Power is Power”, featuring three of the world’s biggest stars, is an ode to the reluctant hero of the entire series – Jon Snow.

What we love about this track are the interlocking yet distinct contributions from the three featured artists. The Weeknd’s echoing beats bring to mind his chart-topping “Pray for Me” from the Black Panther soundtrack, but his lyrics are far-removed from the African savannah of Wakanda. “I was born of the ice and snow / With the winter wolves and the dark alone,” he sings; a perfect battle hymn for the oft-wallowing Jon. SZA knocks it out of the park with a fluid, strong verse that further explores the self-doubt / heroism clash within Jon’s psyche. And Travis Scott, as usual, switches it up with a verse that contrasts but complements the rest of the song.

All in all, “Power is Power” is a treat whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not.

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