Vampire Weekend cooking up summery vibes in the video for 'Harmony Hall'YouTube/Vampire Weekend

With their worldly brand of indie, densely referential lyrics, and Ivy League inception, Vampire Weekend seem tailor-made for Cantabs, and the description of their first three albums as a coming-of-age story maps remarkably well onto Cambridge. Their self-titled debut is the run-up, full of expectation and afrobeat influences, excited to picnic with the bohemian intelligentsia and care about Oxf*rd Commas. Contra is Michaelmas, your eyes open to the highs and lows, gowned academics no longer a novelty, growing to love the place for what it is, not how it’s sold; 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City is Lent, with its questions of mortality and existential despair. All this said, I really hope Easter resembles Father of the Bride

"At the very least, Father of the Bride makes it possible to bop with a furrowed brow"

If you think I’m reading too much into things, just listen to the album. Surely "things have never been stranger/things are gonna stay strange", from ‘Stranger’, is an incredibly apt description of coming here. Successfully adapting to university is one of the biggest challenges, and as May Week approaches, the temptation to look at how far you’ve come is unavoidable. With their own student days long behind them, Vampire Weekend have returned with a double album that recapitulates their past, while facing resolutely forwards.

Although it would be lazy to only now say they’ve ‘matured’ (haven’t we all), there’s a definite shift, both sonic and lyrical. It’s still recognisably them – there are echoes of ‘A-Punk’ and ‘Diane Young’ on ‘Bambina’ – but they’ve diversified; reintroducing global influences, alongside borrowings from R&B, baroque pop and psychedelia, as well as an acoustic country element, which generally (surprisingly) works. They’ve also introduced collaboration, with largely positive contributions from Danielle Haim and Steve Lacy. 

"Despite the hiatus, they're as strong as ever, having flown the pigeonhole for good"

The band makes good use of the format, cramming it with ideas, clearly built up over their six-year absence. Some are more successful than others, though all of them are interesting, and there are many stand-outs. On ‘Harmony Hall’, mellifluous guitar carries us along to a poignant recurrence of the refrain from ‘Finger Back’ on Modern Vampires, "I don’t want to live like this/but I don’t want to die", while ‘Sympathy’, which confronts religious bigotry over an infectious flamenco-tinged backing, is knowingly prefaced "I think I take myself too serious/it’s not that serious". ‘Unbearably White’ plays on this further, with its canny title, lamenting "could’ve been smart/we’re just unbearably bright" What more needs to be said?


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Father of the Bride doesn’t fail to deliver its promised ‘summery vibes’. The upbeat melody of tracks like ‘This Life’, softens typically bittersweet lyrics, "baby, I know pain is as natural as the rain/I just thought it didn’t rain in California". However, the cover art of a globe, whilst evoking broader horizons, perhaps more strongly reminds us of the fact that nothing escapes politicisation. The excellent ‘How Long?’ acknowledges the palpable disquiet in the background of the record, "cause when we play democracy/you always take immunity". It can be hard not to feel despondent, the zeitgeist hardly conducive to senseless revelry, but at the very least, Father of the Bride makes it possible to bop with a furrowed brow. After all, sadness isn’t a survival strategy.

If they haven’t matured then, perhaps they’ve mellowed. Despite the hiatus, and the departure of Rostam Batmanglij, they’re as strong as ever, having flown the pigeonhole for good, with a more measured, diverse sound. If you’ve ever felt put off by Vampire Weekend’s commercial appeal, or if their caricature as pretentious, preppy private-schoolers has always struck a little too close to home, then now is the time to try them out. It’s a sedate, welcome, return that radiates cautious optimism, and, having survived a year at Cambridge, it’s a perfect fit for your summer.

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