It’s been over three years since we last had a new album from frontman Ezra Koenig’s east coast indie band but they haven’t been wasting any time. Some of Vampire Weekend’s members have done solo work or collaborated with other artists as break-off projects: Rostam Batmanglij with Ra Ra Riot singer Wes Miles and Chris Baio with his own EP. Rumors that they were going to release a new album in 2013 surfaced in early 2012 but it wasn’t until a few months ago that fans were even given a definite thumbs up on the project.
Then, all at once, they came roaring back. Within two weeks they’d unveiled the name, artwork, and spring tour dates for the album and had dropped a double A-Side single featuring the songs Diane Young and Step.
It took me a while (I’m embarrassed, really) to realize the somewhat ironic pun of Diane Young (say it out loud until you figure it out). The title added to the verses “Nobody knows what the future holds/it’s bad enough just getting old” and “Irish and proud baby, naturally/But you’ve got the luck of a Kennedy” fueled my first inclination that the band was developing a sudden fascination with death and the inevitability of growing old. It makes sense though, especially from this group, all of its members reaching the point where they can see the middle of their lives better than the beginning.
The three official songs from the album (Diane Young, Step, Unbelievers) all center around death and maturity, Step even going so far as to parody some of their earlier work, proving that they have changed both as a band and as individuals. “Wisdom’s a gift but you’d trade it for youth/age is an honor-it’s still not the truth” and “The gloves are off, the wisdom teeth are out” both give insight into their changing view on life and how they’ve evolved since their journey began.
Unbelievers, a song performed live on Jimmy Kimmel, adds to this grim sense of searching and growth with brilliant lyrics like “Girl you and I will die unbelievers, bound to the tracks of the train” and “I’m not excited, but should I be?/Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me?” making what should be a rather melancholy song into a foot-stomping anthem.
Vampire Weekend is arguably my favorite band and I’ve followed them from the beginning, entertained by their personalities as well as their music. They’ve stated that this album is a shift from their previous two, a comment manifested in the songs that they’ve chosen to release. Modern Vampires of the City (May 14) will complete the band’s trilogy of albums and promises to be their best yet. If there is this much to say about a few songs, I can’t wait to hear the album in full.