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Culture Shock

Vampire Weekend Thanks Us For Our Patience with Release of New Singles, "Harmony Hall" and "2021"

Cover Photo from Flickr

The skies have cleared, the sun has come out to shine brilliantly over the campus, and Vampire Weekend has released new music. The two singles, "Harmony Hall" and "2021" were released yesterday morning at 8AM sharp and Vampire Weekend fans everywhere crept out of their coffins with weary eyes to unlock their phones and hit play on their respective music streaming platforms. Their fourth studio album, Father of the Bride (originally teased as FOTB) will come out later this year. Singles will come out in pairs, keeping with the wedding theme, until the full album is released.

Both singles were produced by Ezra Koenig, lead singer of Vampire Weekend, and Ariel Rechtshaid. "Harmony Hall" begins framed by a contemplative guitar riff, as if you're lying in a hammock and watching the sun filtering in through the leaves in a half-dream. The piano and drums build into a sort of island theme, but it's more pretense of an easy-going spirit. Ezra airs out his worries of passing time and attempts to clarify seemingly contradictory observations, "thought that I was free from all that questioning, but every time a problem ends another one begins."

The title of the song is a reference to the name of a dorm at Columbia University, Vampire Weekend's alma mater. This sentimental connection to how the band started is a melancholic reminder of how much has happened since. Most of the members have embarked on solo careers, some have quite recently started a family, and more specifically, member Rostam Batmanglij left the band in 2016. They have all moved on, but they can't quite bury the memories they had there. With this added layer, "Harmony Hall" makes more sense as a prelude to the whole album and makes a full circle for the band.

"Harmony Hall" follows the band's talent in making songs that read like short stories, with the dreamy memory at the beginning, but boils it down to a simple mantra of, "I don't wanna live like this, but I don't wanna die." The lyric is borrowed from "Finger Back" of their third studio album Modern Vampires of the City. The new single stay consistent with MVOTC and its fear and eventual acceptance of time. You can take what you need from "Harmony Hall." You can take it just for its cheery, uptempo beat, or you can also take it for its shout into the void of feeling overwhelmed by something you thought you once knew. Shoutout to the Genius intern out there who theorized that the song's actually about rising hate groups in Ivy schools.

"2021" is sparse in length, just under two minutes, and it's calmer than "Harmony Hall." It's a half-meditation, half-lullaby on time and wanting to wait. There's a relaxing synth melody which contrasts the guitars that play a sort of classic rock fanfare, and further interspersed with Jenny Lewis singing in a Siri-like voice to the refrain of "boy." Ezra sings "it's a matter of -" and leaves us to fill in the blanks. Maybe he'll make a twitter poll and have you choose between trust, fact, course, and time, later reveal that the right answer was actually none of those options.

The visual concept of the new album contrasts their previously more collegiate and preppy look of the past three albums. A coiled, green snake is the cover for the two singles. The videos for "Harmony Hall" and "2021" show that Vampire Weekend has chosen a more natural approach for FOTB with a white background and close-ups on a frog's life, caterpillars, blooming flowers, and one mysterious AI. They bring to mind the glossy DK Eyewitness books from elementary school more than the European classics.

It's quite alarming to realize that Modern Vampires of the City was released six (what!) years ago, but in this very special case, absence has definitely made the heart grow fonder.

And now that programming is kicking off soon, I hope everyone's ready to just hear FOTB on WIUX for the rest of 2019...

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