Album: This Life/Unbearably White
Artist: Vampire Weekend
Label: Columbia Records
Non-Airable Tracks: None
Ezra Koenig and his merry band of supernatural sexual metaphors are back with the final two singles before the fourth Vampire Weekend studio album is released on May 3rd. And, lucky for us, “This Life” (absolutely no relation to last year’s Tim Hecker single) and “Unbearably White” are both fantastic entries into the VW canon, rich in tone, samples, lyrics, and of course, the saccharine songwriting that we all fell in love with VW over in the first place.
A-Side “This Life” is great. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to Van Morrison’s classic pop song “Brown Eyed Girl”, from its merry hand claps, to groovy guitar line. It’s missing Morrison’s distinctive gravel, instead supplemented by Danielle Haim of HAIM on backing vocals as front man Ezra Koenig’s Tenor serenades us. Continuing the trend of obscure musical references embodied on the last few Vampire Weekend singles this year, Koenig interpolates iLoveMakonnen’s 2012 song “Tonight” for his chorus. “You’ve been cheating on, cheating on me/I’ve been cheating on, cheating on you” he sings, in the tone of someone who doesn’t seem particularly bothered by the dramatic developments unfolding. All that aside, this is a banger of a single and has made me more excited for Father of the Bride than any previous song so far.
That is until I heard B-Side “Unbearably White”. A coy reference to a 2015 The New Republic article entitled “Why ‘Indie Music’ Is So Unbearably White” that used a picture of Koenig as a header image, this song doesn’t seem to have much to do with the subject matter of that article, instead using the phrase “unbearably white” to describe blank, passionless love between the narrator and a love interest. “Unbearably White” is a beautiful indie pop song with cutesy guitar and bongos offsetting the lyrically dissonant excuses Koenig feeds us for his (assumed) distance from his lover. On the bridge the guitar cuts out and lets the bass and strings carry us away from the neglect. It’s an intimate, beautiful song recalling past love with more than a little bit of yearning. The post-chorus kicks in as filtered vocals sing us to sleep.
If you can’t tell, I love these tracks and while I was excited for the album before, this shows a promise that “Harmony Hall” and “Sunflower” didn’t. The songwriting on these are elevated and set a standard that might be difficult to reach, but I’m confident Vampire Weekend can do it. At this point Vampire Weekend easily serve as members of the old guard of modern “indie”. This single shows that they certainly aren’t giving up their position anytime soon.
Sounds Like: Van Morrison, Vampire Weekend (sorry i know it’s obvious but what do you expect)
Reviewer’s Name: Bennett Tolar
Date of Review: 4/8/2019