There’s taking a break and then there’s what Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig defines as a “dignified pace” between albums. Nevertheless, nearly six years of radio silence has come to an end with the release of ‘Harmony Hall’ and ‘2021’ – two new singles which will feature on their upcoming album Father of the Bride expected this Spring.
The pre-release tease was ‘120 minutes of Harmony Hall’, a two-hour guitar loop evocative of Celtic folk and the opening to, you guessed it, ‘Harmony Hall’. As the pace picks up, the addition of muted percussion and piano accompanies Ezra as he sings the suggestive bridge “anger wants a voice, voices want to sing”.
Despite ‘Harmony Hall’s rhythmic energy, the lyrics echo humanity’s current state of hopelessness. The reality that “every time a problem ends, another one begins” is countered by Koenig’s sustained verdict from 2013’s ‘Finger Back’ that no, “I don’t want to live like this – but I don’t want to die”. The unexpected but enjoyable ‘piano recital in a year 9 music lesson’ style interlude sandwiched in the track symbolises the structured chaos of our day to day dramas. With a tambourine here and what I believe to be one of those twisty-hand-bead instruments (a ‘cabasa’, who knew) there, the track is vibrant – reminiscent of the electric energy of Contra.
The base loop which sounds like a hypnotic union of recorders, a xylophone, electric guitars and erratic hi-hats slows the pace in ‘2021’. The minimalist synth fusion is a loop of a Haruomi Hosono sample from 80s Japanese shop music. As Jenny Lewis sings “boy” repeatedly, Koenig questions if in 2021 you will “think about me” or “think about us”, saying he’ll wait a year but not “three”. Try waiting six lads, then we’ll talk.
The indie collective’s Spotify logo also changed to an illustrated spiralled snake, reminiscent of the ‘Harmony Hall’ lyrics “with wicked snakes inside a place you thought was dignified”. The animal imagery continues, with the Spotify track videos a rainforest frog (2021) and an ant scuttling (Harmony Hall). To keep us going, the band plan to release their new tracks 2 by 2 each month, hopefully culminating to the Noah’s Ark of all albums.
At Dorset’s ‘End of the Road Festival’ last summer, Koenig promised a UK return to “play new songs. And they’re good – I promise”. Thus far his promise rings true, and if he’s a man of his word, Vampire Weekend should grace our shores before the year is out.