Vampire Weekend is an indie-rock band that has gathered much popularity between both critics and the layman, influencing both the direction of the genre, and giving it a larger audience as well. Between 2008 and 2013, their first three albums all ended up being hits, and they were soaring. But after spending years touring; following their latest album, Modern Vampires of the City; long-time band member, Rostam Batmanglij decided to take a break from the band in 2016, and it seemed they would be on hiatus for a long while.
However, seemingly out of nowhere, we now have two singles, and an announcement for a new album coming soon in March. And I, as much as anyone, was excited that after a half-decade, we would return to receiving new, original content from one of the bands that first got me interested in indie music. But I was also interested in where the band would go, after the loss of a member, and a somewhat-lengthy break.
Firstly, there’s a definite stylistic disconnect between the two new tracks: not one that necessarily harms the quality of either, but their sound is very different from one another. The first track, “Harmony Hall,” sounds similar to what one would expect out of the band, with what feels like some newer, southern influences; whereas, “2021,” is a bit slower, more minimalistic, and unique.
“Harmony Hall” uses echoey acoustic guitars as both a somber beginning and end to the track. Ezra’s voice matches the tone, with some quieter vocals to go along with it. But as the song progresses, they add more and more layers to both the instrumental and vocal performances. Extra guitars, and some sweet piano chords get added to the mix, to give it almost a Lynyrd Skynyrd, southern rock vibe to it. And when Ezra’s voice grows along with this, it gets to be about as anthemic as Vampire Weekend gets.
This driving feeling goes well with the theme of the vocals, which; although through mostly allegories and metaphors; provides a strong statement about today’s political environment. Ezra’s frustration with the world, and America specifically, is demonstrated through the building strength and volume of everything. All of these things make “Harmony Hall” a very sweet, powerful, and catchy rock song.
Juxtaposing that, “2021,” is more electronic-focused, and less in-your-face. Originally, I disliked a lot of this song, as the electronic and percussive parts are honestly about as generic as 2019 pop gets. But listening to it more, its minimalism shines through and goes really well with the pondering, melancholy lyricism within the cut. The guitar riffs in the center are also pretty awesome as well. So although it may not seem that great, and it only lasts about a minute and a half, it creates a bit of a (probably necessary) lull.
Overall, the two singles provide separate looks at where the band is at, while illustrating their questions and frustrations with the world. The differences in style prove they have some musical flexibility, if that was even in question before. And although I’m not the largest fan of “2021,” it does what it’s supposed to. If I wasn’t already excited for their new release, I am now.