By Isabel Weinberg
BU News Service
“I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die.” It’s been six years since Ezra Koenig professed this fear in “Finger Back,” a track on 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City. Now, he’s resurrected and injected this lyric with a whole new vibe. Instead of the congested and staccato flow the band usually adheres to, Vampire Weekend’s lead single, “Harmony Hall” off their upcoming album Father of the Bride breathes a carefree and uplifting feeling into these somber words. It doesn’t completely leave behind the trademark East Coast ivy-covered-walls, horchata-sipping sensation that the band is known for; it’s just a change of season. Vampire Weekend is ushering in the springtime, and I’m glad it’s come early.
The song starts off with a gentle reminder of what all Vampire Weekend fans are used to: a very unique guitar melody that flips and runs circles around itself. Koenig picks the strings so dexterously that it draws you in, putting you in a trance. Then, the delicate voice of a familiar man floats gently over the soundscape. If you told me that he lived in a hut made out of chrysanthemums in the hills of New England, I wouldn’t be surprised. After that, we’re in the palm of his hand, so when the plucky and undeniably heartening piano melody comes in, we don’t immediately press shuffle and abandon him. The chilling backup choir vocals tug at our heartstrings, but the sharp tambourine begs to lead us forward. As it goes on, the song crescendos to epic proportions, filling our headspace with ethereality and inspiring whimsy.
The genius of Koenig’s lyrics is that he beautifully disguises his messages as poetry. In the first prechorus, Koenig states, “Anger wants a voice, voices wanna sing.” This one line encapsulates the issues of the past year, as both sides of the American political spectrum struggled to find a way to effectively communicate with each other. The band usually strays from political statements, but this is just one of the ways in which Vampire Weekend has grown over their hiatus. They’re able to draw attention to societial frustrations without explicitly taking a side. In this way, Koenig manages to do what leaders of this country have been unable to do since Trump took office; find a common ground for two polarizing ideologies. We’re all angry. At least we can agree on that.
Vampire Weekend didn’t let us down. They took some time to find themselves, and came back with a new way to tell their stories. “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die” has suddenly become a mantra for life, not a reason to stop living.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Boston University News Service.