New York-based alternative rock band Vampire Weekend released two teasing singles as a double A-side on Jan. 24. Both tracks are set to appear on their upcoming album “Father of the Bride,” coming out this year.
“Harmony Hall” is a sunny baroque rock track featuring frontman Ezra Koenig’s lyrical sincerity and exhilarating song structure. While critics refuse to move on from the notion of the band being a Paul Simon sound-alike in terms of both artists’ musical expedition in Afropop, the track bears a self-fashioning arrangement style that is more parallel to the intricate compositions of Queen in terms of drawing inspiration from a range of art forms.
Opening with a looping guitar riff which calls to mind the sounds of a folksy creek in the woods, the first two verses and choruses are backed by Koenig hitting indie-pop chords on the keyboard. Then out of nowhere, the piano is soloing a baroque bridge that alludes to the breakdown of “In My Life,” one of John Lennon’s best works, while the upbeat guitars remain reminiscent of the Grateful Dead’s “Touch of Grey.” After hearing the cacophony that eventually develops into a groovy climax, it is undeniable that “Father of the Bride” will draw from more ‘60s psychedelia.
While Lennon was not yet engaged in U.S. politics when he wrote “In My Life,” Koenig, in fact, was not “free from all that questioning.” In “Harmony Hall,” he seems to be plagued by a situation that he could no longer stay out of: “But every time a problem ends/another one begins.” It’s no surprise that eventually the band would show their cards in an era when numerous artists choose to voice political awareness through music.
Instead of being a whining cynic, the Columbia graduate ponders on one’s commitment to marriage and that to political tribes, singing a despondent line with his voice that is delightful as ever: “I don’t wanna live like this/but I don’t wanna die,” which is interpolated from “Finger Back,” a song that appears on their last album. There is no contrived pretension of growth, and he celebrates self-acceptance with the sunniest melody of the year so far.
Although released as a double A-side single alongside “Harmony Hall,” “2021” is more of an experiment with guitar licks and synth pieces. This short but well-polished ambient tune again assures the band’s uncertainty about the future, with Koenig wondering, “2021, will you think about us?”
We don’t know will happen in two years, but Koenig’s Instagram indicates that we can expect three 2-song drops every month before the LP, a double album, is eventually released.
“Harmony Hall” and “2021” are available on all streaming platforms.
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