“Only God Was Above Us” – Vampire Weekend Album Review

Written by on April 7, 2024

This is ten tracks of all killer, no filler. 

Review by Aidan Smith – 

I was eleven years old when I first heard about Vampire Weekend, it was on a weekend – I remember well because I was up far too late snacking on microwaveable popcorn watching a live taping of Saturday Night Live. Some 2013 big-wig was hosting (although I can’t remember who), my main takeaway, however, was the live musical performance. This was something I rarely looked forward to and most times skipped through, however Vampire Weekend was different. I was astounded by their music, yet caught off guard – But altogether entranced by something.

Modern Vampires of The City came out in 2013, and was the advent of my musical journey – I was finding some of my all-time favorites like Green Day, My Chemical Romance, and Nirvana, so latching onto an album like Modern Vampires was a noticeably different shift for eleven-year-old me. This was the first “indie” record I really listened to.

Walking through Washington Square Park in the morning listening to “Obvious Bicycle” was a formative experience, and I accredit Vampire Weekend for much of what my friends mean when they call me “pretentious,” something I willfully accept. Their music reminds me of the city in a way that not that many other artists do – And they’re unequivocally at their best when they remember this.

2019’s Father of The Bride was essentially a solo project for front-man Ezra Koenig and was considered to be, by many, a bloated album with a few too many misses and much of the “Vampire Weekend charm” notably missing, also based around the ethos of Los Angeles (it just isn’t a better city). A lot of the airy, dreamy, folk-like tunes on Father of The Bride are fun, catchy, and memorable – but few of them hold a candle to songs like Hannah Hunt or Step, both of which are love letters to New York City.

Alright, enough preface. As a long-time fan, observer, and even hater (at some odd phases in my musical journey), I can confidently say that Only God Was Above Us is my favorite album of theirs. It is maybe, just maybe, the best of Vampire Weekend’s discography.

This is ten tracks of all killer, no filler. There isn’t a single song on this album that doesn’t deserve a spot here – They all feel like whole ideas, there are no missing beats.

“Ice Cream Piano,” the album’s opener, is one of the band’s best tracks, probably of all time. It has a beautiful piano lead, mixed with fuzzy bass lines that feel post-punky, closing on a bombastic crescendo filled with organs, violins, and a buzzing synth. It might be the loudest that VW has ever been.

“Classical” promises a whole new side to the band. The second track on the album and the third single, the lead guitar (something I hated on my first listen) sounds like the band was asked to perform at a Renaissance fair or something, but what begins as odd breaks down into a jazzy, indie classic. There is a minute-long jazz break halfway through that features some of the group’s most experimental, but also musically profound material.

The band continues this slower-paced, avant-garde take on “The Surfer,” the album’s midpoint. Its lyrics about ambivalence and one’s journey are some of my favorites on the album: “Fake fortune teller scandalized by fate / Broke bodybuilder crushed beneath the weight / Lost and deluded trying to find your place / Inept long-distance runner losing every race.” It’s a full song, with a Sgt. Pepper-style break at the end that is unlike anything Vampire Weekend has ever produced; It’s no surprise that this track was co-produced by ex-bandmate Rostam Batmanglij.

Over the years, Vampire Weekend has held a special place in my heart – sometimes ostentatious, criticism has always been vocal – but on Only God Was Above Us it feels like the band comes together in a way never discovered before.


Featured image from Amazon.com.