Album Review: Vampire Weekend reach fond heights in Only God Was Above Us (2024 LP)

Vampire Weekend

A lot has happened in the world since Vampire Weekend last released an album (2019’s Father of the Bride). A lot has happened since frontman Ezra Koenig wrote the vast majority of lyrics to this new album (2019-2020). One thing that hasn’t changed is Vampire Weekend’s ability to create lyrics and music so uniquely obtuse that you don’t even try to overthink what they’re doing anymore. Here on Only God Was Above Us, Vampire Weekend is back to near their best, invoking sounds from all their previous albums, while making everything on LP5 sound fresh and exciting.

Coming five years since album four, the new album feels like a return to form for the band. Recorded as a three-piece featuring foundation members Ezra Koenig, bassist Chris Baio, and drummer Chris Tomson, Only God Was Above Us feels like a natural successor to Father of the Bride, an album that was expansive and a bit disconnected, while also feeling like a distant cousin of the band’s first three albums (Vampire Weekend, Contra, Modern Vampires of the City), with its equally excitable and delicate guitars matched by Koenig’s unique lyricism leading from the front.

Opening track “Ice Cream Piano” starts with a solemn swear, delivered in a regretful yet cynical tone. The early refrains of ‘you don’t want to win this war because you don’t want peace’ feels like a commentary on pretty much all world leaders at the moment, before the song goes cataclysmic resulting in a delivery of woozy synths, piano and rapid drumming. Koenig’s voice is as distinct as ever with his delivery on “Classical” (a song that feels like it belongs on either your cooking or vacuuming playlist), while “Connect” probably feels the least connected on the album (it’s a good song, trust me. It’s just all over the place).

The album feels like it peaks on “Prep School Gangster”. The most traditional of Vampire Weekend songs, it leans heavily into the Paul Simon-vibed sounds from their debut. The song is calm and considered in its delivery, while simultaneously going through multiple key and tempo changes; keeping the listener on their toes with every passing word. “Prep School Gangsters” is the band at their most complete, while also feeling like it will probably be the song the band will start their live show encores with on upcoming tours.

“The Surfer” has a bit of a Sgt. Pepper’s aura to it. With its wandering and expansive sound, it feels very much like it could have been the love child of Paul McCartney and The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, despite undoubtedly being the offspring of Koenig. On an album that probably lacks a big single or genuinely radio-friendly song, “Gen-X Cops” is the almost four-minutes that is the mostly likely to fill that void. Understandably released as one of the two taste-tests from the band as their album promo started (“Capricorn” being the other), “Gen-X Cops” is held up by Koenig’s chorus vocal, while the bridge’s piano feels like the hero moment of the song.

The closing third of the album is the most expansive and reflective, with “Mary Boone” for the most part being a downbeat classic before a chorus of backing vocals takes over in the closing minute.

“Pravda” feels like a passion piece for Koenig, with its guitar reminiscent of their earliest sounds when the band would jam on stage momentarily before entering into a song like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”. Closer “Hope”, coming in at nearly 8 minutes, is the bands longest song but probably should have been four minutes shorter. The closing half is stronger than the opening, and rounds out the album in just as a calm and complete way that all the previous four albums did.

While not a perfect album, Only God Was Above Us feels like Vampire Weekend is on the precipice of returning to their best and most fond heights. With the band members nearing twice the age they were when the band started, naturally their dynamics and sound have evolved. Despite all this time, growth and change, Vampire Weekend still knows how to craft beautiful songs that make up beautiful albums. I look forward to seeing how it all plays out in the live space.


Only God Was Above Us is out on Friday 5 April 2024.