Vampire Weekend: Harmony Hall / 2021

Image Courtesy of Sony Music

Image Courtesy of Sony Music

By Grace Lemon

After a six year hiatus, Vampire Weekend is back and better than ever with the release of two singles, “Harmony Hall” and “2021.” Fortunately, these tracks are only a brief glimpse into what is to come for the indie pop band. They are the first part of a long-term plan to drop a set of two new songs each month for three months until their full album, recently revealed to be titled Father of the Bride, is released in the spring.

In only two songs, Vampire Weekend proves that the six years were worth the wait, and that they still have much more to bring to the table.  While still sticking to the unique stylistic roots that made everyone fall in love with their first album over 10 years ago, these tracks reimagine the band’s musical style in a new and refreshing way.

Vampire Weekend have always been skilled in their ability to transport listeners to a specifically detailed scene through their music. The sound of “Harmony Hall” instantly makes me feel like I’m opening the door to the first warm day of spring, which is a feat considering the current single digit temperatures. It is folky and upbeat, with a catchy tune that kept me smiling for the entire five minutes. In a word, this song is a bop. Lyrically, the track is much more dark and complex, providing social commentary on modern power and hate.

“2021” has a much more mellow sound, and creates a sense of nostalgia for the present from a future lens. Vocally, the track is more stripped down, with vocalist Ezra Koenig singing over soft instrumentals. The lyrics reflect on the passing of time and the anxiety the band has about maintaining relevant. They wonder if they will still be thought about in 2021, and this concern with change brings listeners into a melancholic mindset about everything that could happen over the course of the next three years.

While the lyrics of both tracks are insightful and poignant, their instrumental focus is what really sets them apart. The band clearly prioritized instrumentals in the making of both tracks, even going so far as to promote their release by posting a two hour loop of the guitar backing to “Harmony Hall.” This track’s instrumentation is organic and stripped down, and its beautiful piano bridge brings the musicality of the entire song together perfectly.  The sound of “2021” is much more electric, with the instrumental focus revolving around a sample of a synth line from Japanese musician Haruomi Hosono. Each instrumental inclusion in the two tracks adds a new dimension to the overall sound, and exemplifies Vampire Weekend’s mastery of all musical elements.

Ezra Koenig makes my life better every time he opens his mouth, but his first vocals of “Harmony Hall” sent me into a complete out of body experience and brought me back to blasting Modern Vampires of the City in middle school.  That sentimental sense of nostalgia combined with the new artistry offered in this release made me feel like I was reconnecting with an old friend.  Even for those who weren’t in love with Vampire Weekend six years ago, Koenig’s raw vocal talent and the band’s incredible musicality in these two tracks can turn anyone into a fan.  If these tracks are any sign of what is to come, everyone should get ready for an amazing fourth album by Vampire Weekend.

MusicSteven Norwalk