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Vampire Weekend’s ‘Only God Was Above Us’ rages into new territory 

Vampire Weekend has been a predominant name in the indie rock world since its self-titled debut album was released in 2008. Since then, the group has redefined the genre by blending ska, hip-hop and pop. Characterized by literate lyrics and musical proficiency, the group's sound is lively and compatible with the spring season, which fits with the release of its new album in early April. 

"Only God Was Above Us" is Vampire Weekend’s fifth studio album, and the first to be released since "Father of the Bride" in 2019. Despite the album’s runtime not even lasting an hour, each song contains fragments of varying melodies making each track, and the album as a whole, feel much longer than it is.

Vampire Weekend is comprised of lead vocalist, guitarist and pianist Ezra Koenig, bassist Chris Baio and drummer Chris Tomson. Each band member is given a platform on this album, from the impressively intricate and jazzy basslines to each track’s driving percussion. 

The album begins with "Ice Cream Piano," which spins the signature sound of Vampire Weekend into an amplified and raging version. The song starts with simple guitar and harmonies, eventually shifting into a fast-paced explosion. 

It features the broken, deliberate melodies of Vampire Weekend with an uncharacteristic punk distortion. It shares its intended message through meta lyrics like, “I see the vampires walkin’ / Don’t be gripped by fear, you aren’t next / We’re all the sons and daughters of vampires who drained the old world’s necks.” 

"Classical" and "Connect" are other songs inspired by the band’s consistent style. The former features resonant drums and a cacophonous sound created by a combination of varying instruments, from a brass section to dissonant piano chords. 

The melody of "Connect" sounds like a muted rendition of the band’s "Ya Hey." The track is a good example of the album's tendency to feature suite-style songs, featuring varying sections to create the illusion of multiple songs contained in one. "Connect" is also one of the first songs on the album to feature a jazz sound through intricate bass lines and groovy piano. 

Another jazz number, "The Surfer," begins with a prolonged introduction featuring seemingly improvised high-range piano notes and a sultry bass line. The descending melodic line in the chorus creates a melancholic energy contributed to by the intoxicating echoes and crying violins. Although it is not a jazz number, "Prep-School Gangsters" additionally contains impressive vocal ad-libs characteristic of the genre. 

"Capricorn" and "Mary Boone” are standouts on the album. “Capricorn" is slow and contemplative, giving focus to different instruments throughout the track. The verses melt into the chorus of raging amplifiers and rolling drums, all juxtaposed by staccato strings. "Mary Boone" gives the illusion of a gospel performance with a choral background and passionate solo line. The drum breakdown is emblematic of 90s hip-hop percussion, contributing to the song's overall reminiscent feel. 

A major theme on the album is societal commentary, which is exemplified through "Gen-X Cops" and "Ice Cream Piano." Another track with a message to spread is the finale: a nearly eight-minute-long epic, "Hope."

"Hope" seems to share a personal message while the previous tracks were directed at a collective. The repetition of lyrics like “I hope you let it go,” consistent melody and bright piano all lull the listener into a trance. The song shifts halfway through into an instrumental interlude where the instruments seem to be conversing with one another. It ends with a more impassioned rendition of the initial themes.  

"Only God Was Above Us" manages to take a beloved musical style and bring it into a new age of its life. The album is everything to be expected of the lyrically and musically brilliant Vampire Weekend but with darker and more distorted twists. Each song contains an earnestly expressed message to be heard and absorbed with open minds and receptive ears.


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