Album ReviewMusic

ALBUM REVIEW: “Only God Was Above Us” by Vampire Weekend

  • Post Author
    by Music director
  • Post Date
    Mon Apr 15 2024

BY: Garrett Lublin

Often the saying holds true that one should not judge a book by its cover; However, when I saw that the newly released Vampire Weekend album would picture a New York City subway car I had high hopes for the project. Their last album admittedly I was not a fan of, I felt it deviated too far from their roots as an alternative rock band with influences from afro-pop, but I hoped this transition was due to the confusion after Rostam Batmanglij's departure from the group in 2016. Vampire Weekend has been on an impressive run since their first album, Self-Titled, released in 2008, which reached 17 on Billboard's top 200. Their next album, Contra, continued their run while integrating some new elements like the rise of electronica alternative music in the early 2010s. Arguably their greatest album came in 2013 with the release of Modern Vampires of the City. The album embodies the feelings of New York City, an emotional masterpiece carrying the listener through lead singer Ezra Koenig's relationship to music, love, and the city itself. Songs like “Unbelievers”and “Hannah Hunt” still hold strong today, and at least for me, are constantly on repeat on my playlists.  After waiting almost 5 years, we were finally graced with a new project entitled Only God was Above Us.

Only God Was Above Us feels like Vampire Weekend has found what they were looking for with their sound in an impressive manner. The title, which is a quote taken from a passenger on Aloha Airlines Flight 243 on which the roof was torn off the plane, is a somber reminder of the new era and the end of the millennial generation, of which Koenig is a part of. The album combines their well-known sound from their sophomore album Modern Vampires of the City with the experimentalism they were attempting on their previous album Father of the Bride in a way that utilizes the best elements of each. The typical Vampire Weekend instrumentation of a bright harpsichord, classical piano, and vibrant string section serves as a base for them to venture out, like their use of a piercing guitar that permeates the album or new background vocals from other members of the band.

The first two songs released, “Gen-X Cops” and “Capricorn”, are perfect teasers of what was to come on the complete project. “Capricorn” initially feels like a many of their previous albums, with a light acoustic guitar and an orchestral strings section, with Koenig's soft voice echoing through the melody. But the song later crescendos bringing in a tearing and screeching synthesizer that dominates the song in a beautiful mix of the old and the new. “Gen-X cops”, my favorite of the two singles, is a more upbeat, passionate track about the destruction of American society and accusations of laziness pinned on Gen-X, or millennials, of which Koenig belongs. Some other notable tracks off the album include “Prep School Gangsters”, a song with a baseline that is strangely reminiscent of 80s alternative tracks, with “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” guitar interventions. The song draws from Koenig's own life, speaking about the fascination of upper-class New York private school kids with violence and gang culture. The album still contains some tracks without much experimentation, and I would suggest “Pravda” or “Mary Boone” as some songs for the staunch Vampire Weekend traditionalists.  Overall, the entire project feels like a perfect step for the band, and it seems they hit on almost every mark they set out for. Only time will tell how it stacks up against their previous works, but I am nonetheless ecstatic for a new Vampire Weekend tour.