Marking a noticeable departure from the sounds of their first three albums, Vampire Weekend’s fourth album Father of the Bride expanded on some of the more worldly sounds of the debut album paired alongside subtle electronica and folk influences. Alongside all of the different creative elements the band provided to the listeners in the 58 minutes of music, it’s ambition shines brightest through in its intricate musical arrangements, lyrical depth, and willingness to experiment with new sonic landscapes.
What was particularly striking about this album upon its release in 2019 was how Vampire Weekend dramatically challenged their own pre-established boundaries. They shed their signature sound to craft something entirely new, displaying an artistic fearlessness that's both commendable and captivating. They didn’t exactly lose their pleasantly preppy nature though, heard especially so on the debut album, but they certainly put it off to the side, in a similar vein to Modern Vampires in the City. For the fans of the first album, Father of the Bridde still has plenty of pleasant upbeat, Midtown Manhattan naivety heard in This Life and Bambina, but that sound is by no means uniform on the record. The incorporation of a broader array of instruments, from lush acoustic guitars to synths and orchestral elements, adds layers of complexity and richness to their music a tad more complex than the records before.
At times holding their cards close to their chest, Harmony Hall along with the two tracks mentioned in the last paragraph boast infectious melodies and pop sensibilities more reminiscent of the debut. The two tracks featuring Steve Lacy, Sunflower and Flower Moon mark a dramatic contrast from the preppy, bright sound mixing in worldly elements of electronica alongside atypical, yet interesting melodies. The good news for the band and us listeners was that most of these creative sonic departures worked out pretty well. Tracks like Stranger having a nice Caribbean sway to it alongside a worldbeat plethora of musical instruments before the band brings the tempo to double time on the beautiful outro.
Comparatively, the album's sonic landscape aligns to an extent with contemporaries like Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear, artists known for their genre-blurring tendencies and lush instrumentation. Yet, Vampire Weekend manages to maintain their distinct identity throughout, infusing each track with their trademark lyrical charm and unique guitar tones.
As most Vampire Weekend fans will tell you, the most hypnotic feature of the record is the soothing and vibrant voice of frontman Ezra Koenig, with tracks like Rich Man luring listeners into repeat streams again and again.
Just like the debut, this record has the influence of Paul Simon written all over it. The influence of Talking Heads shines through on this record perhaps the brightest with fans and critics striking similarities between Father of the Bride and the Talking Heads masterpiece, Remain in Light, although this record has parts noticeably softer than freight train that was Remain in Light.
As strong as the record was and even with how well it has held up in the years since, it’s still a stretch to crown this the finest Vampire Weekend record. The initial shockwave caused by the debut into the indie world was really only matched by a small select list of records post 2000. With that being said, Father of the Bride still sits in its own category when looking at the band's discography as a whole. Apart from it being the only double album released by the band, it ventured way farther into diverse musical themes and styles than the other three. With the bands creative drive and desire to leave an impression certainly being a strength, it was also its biggest (an essentially only) weakness. The drive to delve into uncharted territory left mostly great songs, but also left listeners with a double album with a few noticeably weaker songs like My Mistake and Spring Snow. Although all listeners' tastes differ, there are undoubtedly a few tracks which resonated with noticeably fewer listeners. Again though, it’s hard to knock ambition, but double albums usually come with a few duds.
By our metrics, Father of the Bride was one of the few albums released in the last five years to appear on our ranking lists with us ranking it the 126th best indie rock album of all time alongside Harmony Hall being scored the 111th best indie rock song post 2000 and Bambina making the cut for our list of 100 Fantastic Indie Rock Deep Cuts post 2000. With time on its side, Father of the Bride is going to be increasingly more revered by critics and fans as its impact and advanced sonic landscapes continued to be discovered and recognized.