The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Review | Vampire Weekend’s ‘Only God Was Above Us’ is sure to get stuck in your head

The alternative rock band continued its perfect streak with their newest album, released on April 5.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY
Jan 26, 2020; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Ezra Koenig accepts the award for Best Alternative Music Album accepts on behalf of Vampire Weekend for Father Of The Bride during the 62nd annual GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony on Jan. 26, 2020 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, Calif.

In my opinion, alternative rock band Vampire Weekend has never made a bad album. I am ecstatic to report that “Only God Was Above Us” — released on April 5 — did not interrupt their streak.

The band’s last full album, “Father of the Bride,” came out five years ago. If such long gaps between projects keep Vampire Weekend consistent in producing good music, then I will happily wait another decade for another album as good as “Only God Was Above Us.” It felt like a throwback to the band’s earliest songs, as well as an expansion on the themes that frequently arise in their music.

The first track, “Ice Cream Piano,” was an outstanding lead that hinted at the sonic variety the rest of the tracklist has in store. I was impressed by how much the album felt like a cohesive Vampire Weekend project yet contained so much variety.

“The Surfer” has a smoother, more tropical vibe than “Gen-X Cops” with its brazen, siren-like horns and quick tempo backing drums. Every song seems to have radically different productions, but all of them flow together with their earworm qualities.

In the days since its release, I have listened to the entire album a dozen times. Listening through in order and noticing each natural tonal shift was a rewarding experience that I would recommend to anyone giving the album a shot for the first time.

There are no skips — time flies when listening through the 47-minute-long tracklist in order.

At nearly an hour long, the album follows a similar structure to their past albums. It seems the band has found a successful formula: bookending albums with songs running six minutes or longer and sandwiching their most popular singles in the middle.

The attention to ordering the tracklist is indicative of just how precise the production is as well. On every song, there are countless tracks of snare drums, bass guitars, echoes, vocals, piano, horns, and many other effects. Every layer paints a soundscape that had me air-drumming around my apartment late into the night.

The posh alt-rock band has been known to tackle politics in their past work, teaming up with Bernie Sanders at a 2020 political rally to perform their 2019 album “Father of the Bride.” Frequently, the group reflects on how it feels to be a young person in a world that seems so hopeless. 

RELATED: Review | Rap duo Armand Hammer find beauty in the unusual during Mission Creek Festival performance

Their upbeat, jam-rock vibe continues to counter the sometimes-existential topics within their songs. The track “Hope” concludes the album, with soothing piano keys that obscure the hopeless feeling of inheriting the messy world portrayed in the vocals.

The repetition of the lyrics in the melody, “I hope let it go / The enemy’s invincible / I hope you let it go” felt like being wrapped in a cozy blanket of existential dread.

“Only God Was Above Us” has been on repeat during my walks to class all week and I don’t foresee myself turning bangers like “Capricorn” and “Gen-X Cops” off for a long time. I can’t recommend this album it enough.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Charlie Hickman
Charlie Hickman, Arts Reporter
Charlie Hickman is a sophomore at the University of Iowa. He is majoring in English on the Pre-Law track with minors in Political Science and Cinema.