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'Father of the Bride' review: Frenetic NYC indie-rockers Vampire Weekend go laid-back California

Vampire Weekend's "Father of the Bride" on Columbia

Vampire Weekend's "Father of the Bride" on Columbia Records.... Credit: Columbia Records


Father of the Bride

BOTTOM LINE The frenetic Columbia indie-rockers go laid-back California

Six years is a long time between albums for any band. But for Vampire Weekend, it seems like a lifetime.

Nearly the only thing that the band’s new “Father of the Bride” (Spring Snow/Columbia) album has in common with 2013’s “Modern Vampires of the City” is Ezra Koenig’s distinctive voice, both his lyrical one and his musical one.

The band’s world-beat influences are gone, as is Rostam Batmanglij, who co-founded the band with Koenig while they were studying at Columbia University. Koenig, who now lives in California with girlfriend Rashida Jones and their son, Isaiah, has replaced them with his twist on sunny classic rock and several duets with Danielle Haim.

It’s jarring to hear Koenig’s voice in such soothing, laid-back surroundings. The first single “Harmony Hall” sounds like he was dropped into the “Let It Bleed”-era Rolling Stones. In “Stranger,” he may have joined The Band circa “Northern Lights-Southern Cross.” At least “This Life” has a Paul Simon feel to it, though more like his time with Art Garfunkel rather than his time with Ladysmith Black Mambazo that inspired so much of Vampire Weekend’s earlier work.

However, Koenig makes it all fit together. And his duets with  Haim give “Father of the Bride” a strong backbone, shoring up pieces of the album. The best of the collaborations is, fittingly, “We Belong Together,” where they trade lines like “We go together like Keats and Yeats, bowls and plates, days and dates” and “We stay united like these old states.” Like "We Belong Together,” “Married in a Gold Rush” works as both a straightforward ballad and something a bit edgier, with bits of electronic bloops and bleeps to remind us that it’s current rather than vintage.

It’s what “Father of the Bride” does again and again, establishing a new timeline for Vampire Weekend rather than picking up where it left off.

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