Vampire Weekend: Only God Was Above Us [Album Review]

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Vampire Weekend
Only God Was Above Us
Columbia Records [2024]

The Fire Note headphone approved

Album Overview: “Fuck the world. You said it quietly. No one could hear you. No one but me.” These are the first lines you’ll hear politely sung by singer Ezra Koenig on Vampire Weekend’s new record, Only God Was Above Us. His delivery sets a confident direction for this fifth LP, the band’s first outing in five years since 2019’s Father Of The Bride. Consisting still of Koenig, Chris Baio, and Chris Tomson, Vampire Weekend is in full form and continues to bring an eclectic blend of indie rock, pop, and world music influences over these 10 tracks. At this point in their career, their sound is much more focused. Many tracks on Only God Was Above Us seem familiar, touching back to earlier times, from their self-titled debut in 2008 to subsequent albums like Contra (2010) and Modern Vampires of the City (2013). The magic of these throwback vibes is that Vampire Weekend sounds very 2024, with stylistic shifts and arrangements running throughout the album, complete with plenty of catchy melodies and witty lyrics.

Musical Style: Vampire Weekend’s musical style is characterized by their fusion of indie rock with elements of pop, African rhythms, and world music influences. Their sound here features intricate instrumentation, catchy hooks, and thoughtful lyrics, creating a unique and recognizable sonic palette.

Evolution of Sound: Vampire Weekend has undergone an evolution in sound from day one while maintaining their signature style. From the upbeat, afro-pop-infused tracks of their early albums to the more introspective and experimental sounds of their later work, the band has demonstrated versatility and growth in their music. Only God Was Above Us stays the course and pushes Vampire Weekend forward again with a fresh perspective and new earworms that will have you humming along quickly.

Artists with Similar Fire: Vampire Weekend’s sound still fits with other top-notch indie rock acts like Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Spoon, Phoenix, and Animal Collective. The band’s blend of world music influences, eclectic style, and use of unconventional instrumentation also finds me thinking of Talking Heads.

Pivotal Tracks: “Capricorn” is a dynamic track featuring honeyed melodies, vibrant instrumentation, and a transcendent chorus, showcasing Vampire Weekend’s ability to blend different musical elements seamlessly. “Gen-X Cops” represents a frantic yet anthemic song with a jaunty beat and catchy refrain, demonstrating the band’s knack for crafting infectious hooks and memorable lyrics. “Classical” sounds like it could have been released at any point in the band’s career with its memorable melodies and saxophone from Henry Solomon, which trades off with Koenig’s piano work.

Lyrical Strength: Vampire Weekend is known for their clever and thought-provoking lyrics, often exploring themes of identity, culture, and societal norms. Their lyrics on Only God Was Above Us fit that mold and are introspective and self-referential, with themes centered around history, legacy, and grappling with one’s place within it. The album is depicted as a reflection on the past, filled with allusions and callbacks to the band’s previous work that completely works just through the lyrics!

Father Of The Bride (2019) / Modern Vampires Of The City (2013)

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Thomas Wilde

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