“Sunflower” and “Big Blue”

Originally Posted on The Yale Herald - Medium via UWIRE

At their best, Vampire Weekend’s new singles from their upcoming album Father of the Bride, “Sunflower” and “Big Blue,” are groovy, heartfelt ditties. At their worst, they feel unsubstantial, which — unless, like me, you spent the last six years in dire anticipation — isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

My first time hearing “Sunflower,” sprawled on a leather couch in Sterling in post-midterm exhaustion, was quickly followed by my second, third, and fourth (facilitated by its two-minute runtime and necessitated by its incessant catchiness). It grooves harder than anything Vampire Weekend has released to date, and Ezra Koenig achieves this funk by reaching both forwards and backwards. “Sunflower” is forward-looking: it’s the band’s first true feature, made in collaboration with The Internet’s multi-instrumentalist producer extraordinaire Steve Lacy (who produced a track off Kendrick Lamar’s last album, DAMN, and was nine years old when Vampire Weekend’s first album came out). “Sunflower” also looks to the past, featuring swirling, Grateful Dead-esque guitar riffs, a ghost note-laden drum break that just doesn’t quit, and some questionable scatting. It’s catchy and whimsical, but it feels more like a jam or demo than an A-side. This is coming from someone who has listened to it no less than 15 times today, so take my criticisms with a grain of salt.

The second track, “Big Blue,” is the more sincere one of the two. It’s sweet — maybe a bit sugary — and it feels like someone thawed and diced a track or two from their last album, Modern Vampires of the City, threw in some sunshine for flavor, and pureed it in their NutriBullet. Featuring chunky acoustic guitars, George Harrison-esque slide, and classic Vampire Weekend canned choir, it’s a quick mashup of all the things that make the band great. The problem: it’s too damn short! We know Koenig can tell a story, and while the song’s one verse is poignant, it just doesn’t quite satisfy. I should want to hit replay, not have to.

“Sunflower” and “Big Blue” represent the two wonderful sides of Vampire Weekend: fun and sincerity. However, neither live up to the classics of their respective categories: “Sunflower” doesn’t hold a candle to a song like “Cousins” or “Diane Young” in terms of hype, and “Big Blue” is nowhere near as heart-wrenching as “Hannah Hunt” or “Diplomat’s Son.” Don’t get me wrong, they’re great tracks, but I pray — out of sincere love for Vampire Weekend’s music — that the heavy hitters of Father of the Bride are yet to come.

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