Only God Was Above Us

Only God Was Above Us

There’s a sense of optimism that comes through Vampire Weekend’s fifth album that makes it float, a sense of hope—a little worn down, a little roughed up, a little tired and in need of a shave, maybe—but hope nonetheless. “By the time you’re pushing 40, you’ve hit the end of a few roads, and you’re probably looking for something—I don’t know what to say—a little bit deeper,” Ezra Koenig tells Apple Music. “And you’re thinking about these ideas. Maybe they’re corny when you’re younger. Gratitude. Acceptance. All that stuff. And I think that’s infused in the album.” Take something like “Mary Boone,” whose worries and reflections (“We always wanted money, now the money’s not the same”) give way to an old R&B loop (Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life”). Or the way the piano runs on “Connect”—like your friend fumbling through a Gershwin tune on a busted upright in the next room—bring the song’s manic energy back to earth. Musically, they’ve never sounded more sophisticated, but they’ve also never sounded sloppier or more direct (“Prep-School Gangsters”). They’re a tuxedo with ripped Converse or a garage band with a full orchestra (“Ice Cream Piano”). And while you can trainspot the micro-references and little details of their indie-band sound (produced brilliantly by Koenig and longtime collaborator Ariel Rechtshaid), what you remember most is the big picture of their songs, which are as broad and comforting as great pop (“Classical”). “Sometimes I talk about it with the guys,” Koenig says. “We always need to have an amateur quality to really be us. There needs to be a slight awkward quality. There needs to be confidence and awkwardness at the same time.” Next to the sprawl of Father of the Bride, OGWAU (“og-wow”—try it) feels almost like a summary of the incredible 2007-2013 run that made them who they are. But they’re older now, and you can hear that, too, mostly in how playful and relaxed the album is. Listen to the jazzy bass and prime-time saxophone on “Classical” or the messy drums on “Prep-School Gangsters” (courtesy of Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes), or the way “Hope” keeps repeating itself like a school-assembly sing-along. It’s not cool music, which is of course what makes it so inimitably cool. Not that they seem to worry about that stuff anymore. “I think a huge element for that is time, which is a weird concept,” Koenig says. ”Some people call it a construct. I’ve heard it’s not real. That’s above my pay grade, but I will say, in my experience, time is great because when you’re bashing your head against the wall, trying to figure out how to use your brain to solve a problem, and when you learn how to let go a little bit, time sometimes just does its thing.” For a band that once announced themselves as the preppiest, most ambitious guys in the indie-rock room, letting go is big.

Audio Extras

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada