Only God Was Above Us by Vampire Weekend

by Noah Kossowsky

Photo by Michael Schmelling, Instagram @Michael_Schmelling

It’s been five years since NYC indie golden boys Vampire Weekend released their fourth album, Father of The Bride. FOTB deviated a bit in the sound and atmosphere fans and critics were used to and wound up being received with the most mixed reception of their careers so far. While it was mostly positive, part of me thinks Ezra Koenig and Co. missed the near-unanimous praise their original trilogy was lauded with when making their fifth record, Only God Was Above Us.

It’s remarkable how Vampire Weekend has managed to recapture the sound of their best work. They even find the time to make call backs to the classics (catch the “Mansard Roof” groove on “Connect”). They’ve always had one of the more unconventional and creative combinations of pop genres and elements from across music so I’m glad to see them return to and continue to expand upon it here. Cycling, busy drum grooves, winding guitar riffs and intricate layers of pianos and strings underscore pristine pop melodies in a display that shows the band’s understanding and mastery over their unique sound.

If I were to describe this record metaphorically, I’d say it’s like walking through an art museum. Each track is so perfectly arranged and placed behind a layer of bright reverb like a glass frame. Choices feel very deliberate and meticulously crafted. This extends to the lyrics as well, which range from observational and narratively-driven to vaguely philosophical, but always descriptive and vivid.

At this point in their careers, you aren’t going to hear Vampire Weekend making anything as simple as “Campus,” nor as frantically energetic as “Cousins.” Even on songs with flashier, fast-paced moments, the band takes the time to breathe and flesh out more intricate song structures. This isn’t necessarily a negative. I appreciate a chill listen, but in the case of Only God Was Above Us, it leaves the slower tracks feeling lethargic by comparison. This is especially true in the case of the lengthy and tedious closer “Hope,” as well as “The Surfer,” which you can find in the dictionary definition of the word schmaltzy.

This record is certainly a return to form for the Ivy League legends. The tracklist may have a slower pace, but this leaves the band time to flesh out each song with gorgeous arrangements and uncommon structures. It reflects a group of songwriters with the patience and willingness to continue mining into the mountain of their own creativity. On Only God Was Above Us, they’ve struck gold once again.


Favorite track: Classical

Essential Albums: Q1 2024

Hello everyone! After a 2 year hiatus, we’re finally bringing Communiqué back. YAY!!! For our first entry, we’ve asked a few of our DJs to share their favorite albums of Q1 of 2024. Keep reading to see what DJs Noah, Leah, and Lukas have been loving 🙂

Noah’s Picks

100% Prod I.V. by Lucy (Cooper B. Handy) 

Massachusetts-based artist Lucy drunkenly delivers consistently catchy hooks over quirky, minimal and unconventional plugg and trap style beats. His very matter-of-fact lyrical style ranges from cutesy to achingly honest. Some might be thrown off by the whiny, mumbled vocals but if you can appreciate their uniqueness, you’ll be rewarded by a record that shines in its simplicity and boyish charm. 

Recommended track: Substance 

Mirage by Hooky 

Philly band Hooky is on the cutting edge with their dreamy combinations of glitchy electronics, soft noise and tender indie songcraft. This is a record that’s as indebted to Nintendo soundtracks as it is to Alex G. For just 33 minutes, it’s an expansive listen that covers a wide range of sounds while still remaining cohesive. These guys have captured something creative, emotionally affecting and beautiful. 

Recommended track: Shrinkmaster 

The Pilgrim, Their God & The King Of My Decrepit Mountain by Tapir! 

Tapir! out of London comes through with a lush and conceptual record that blends an array of influences from indie folk and art rock past and present. The welcome touches of electronic drum kits juxtapose the otherwise organic instrumentation to create effective, unique arrangements. Fantastical lyricism accentuates the majestic melodies. It’s a serene and soothing listen with a lightly dramatic atmosphere that you don’t want to miss. 

Recommended track: My God 

Two Star & The Dream Police by mk.gee 

There’s a really unique atmosphere coming from mk.gee’s blend of alternative R&B and bedroom pop. He takes these influences and works them into his surreal, underwater-sounding production style. Despite the obscured nature of these soundscapes, the songwriting shines through. This record has hooks for days as mk.gee can’t help but bring the catchy melodies even on the record’s most indirect moments. You’ll catch some really sick guitar licks all over this thing as well. Just a very cool and original album. 

Recommended track: Rylee & I 

A Million Easy Payments by Little Kid 

For some of the most emotionally devastating indie folk of the year thus far, look no further than this record from Toronto band Little Kid. Songwriter Kenny Boothby delivers a masterclass in excellent storytelling. He knows how to keep the listener engaged even on songs as long as 10 minutes. Rustic arrangements and organic production allow these tracks to sprawl outward and slowly build without ever feeling stiff or repetitive. Overall, a really beautiful listening experience that will be sure to put you in your feels. 

Recommended track: Bad Energy 

Bright Future by Adrianne Lenker

On Bright Future, Lenker continues to cement herself as one of the songwriting greats. She consistently finds new ways to write gorgeous music with near-infinite emotional depth. While it’s a bit less cohesive than some of her previous solo efforts, this record sees her branching out into piano-based songs and denser arrangements. That being said, it still finds the room to deliver those devastatingly simple guitar and vocal singer/songwriter tunes that remain unmatched in quality. 

Recommended track: Sadness as a Gift

Leah’s Picks

Plastic death by glass beach

Glass Beach have been touted as pioneers of fifth wave emo, and 5 years after their debut the group returned in full force with plastic death. A complete sonic overhaul from the previous record, plastic death refuses to lose your attention for its full hour runtime. The intricate and unpredictable instrumentals soar over abstract lyrics from J McClendon about existentialism and life as a trans woman. The DNA of rock greats are all over this record, as J cites Nirvana, Pixies, and The Beatles as some of their inspirations for the album. It’s a truly maximalist album, but in a way that doesn’t overwhelm.

Favorite track: coelacanth 

Where We’ve Been, Where We Go From Here by FRIKO

Chicago indie rock duo Friko released their debut this February, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Their style harkens back to the heavy hitters of 00s indie rock like Arcade Fire and Japandroids with its well earned musical bravado and heartfelt lyrics. They strike a great balance between rockers like “Chemical” and “Get Numb To It!” and tender ballads like “For Ella” and “Until I’m With You Again.”  Friko have already seemed to carve out their sonic identity with this record, and I won’t be surprised if we’re talking about Friko as one of the best breakout bands of the decade. 

Favorite track: Crimson to Chrome

I Got Heaven by Mannequin Pussy

Missy Dabice wants to be heard. Newly single and extra feral, I Got Heaven sees Mannequin Pussy at peak confidence both musically and lyrically. The hometown heroes continue to cement themselves as a quintessential modern punk band with range to span from Port Richmond to Walnut Hill, as they seamlessly weave glitzy indie pop jams like “I Don’t Know You” with absolute hog crankers like “OK? OK! OK? OK!”

Favorite Track: Loud Bark

QWERTY II by Saya Gray

If I had to choose a single artist to invest all of my hypothetical life savings into, it’d be Saya Gray. After coming across her debut, 19 MASTERS a couple months ago, I was immediately drawn in by her one-of-a-kind sound. Gray’s music is structurally ambiguous, refuses to adhere to a genre, and proves to be the kind of music with such clear artistic direction that it simply has to be made without collaboration. The writing on this album is simultaneously confessional and artful, and its pairing with Saya’s innovative style allows you to visit a new mental island for its succinct 30 minute runtime.

Favorite track: 2 2 BOOTLEG

Lukas’s Picks

Wall of Eyes by The Smile 

Thom Yorke shows yet again that he has what it takes to create a successor to the Radiohead moniker. Subtle and methodical with their instrumentals and use of vocals, this band feels like the concept of OK Computer taken to the natural extreme. From filling the empty space with synths and wind instrumentals to meaningful yet obscure lyrics, the album feels like an alternate timeline that Radiohead would have gotten to if Kid A wasn’t created. I know it might seem unfair to compare this band to Radiohead but when it comes to finding music this polished, it’s hard to find another example

Favorite Track: Friend Of A Friend

Theodore & Andre [EP] by Hit-Boy & Alchemist

Nobody could have seen it coming. The Alchemist and Hit-Boy are two of the best rap producers right now. These are people who had exclusively made a career out of making beats for other people. Yet they’ve teamed up and dropped one of the best rap collaborations I have heard. Short and powerful, this EP manages to not only to highlight each producers surprising skill at rapping but also show off what they are capable of with their own beats. It’s insane to think this duo managed to hide this talent for so long and still manage to remain humble around so many rappers. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, I can only hope we can hear more in the future. 

Favorite Track: DON’T BE GONE

What Now by Brittany Howard

I’ve never deeply followed Brittany Howard’s career with the Alabama Shakes but when she began to perform by herself, I couldn’t help but be captivated. Translating a strong stage presence through her recorded music and managing to meld genres such as funk, rock, and soul, Brittany Howard has really blown me away with how much she has evolved. Whatever expectations I had for her after her amazing debut solo album, they were shattered by Howard’s commanding presence and ability to work around any instruments in her presence. Few artists manage to land a successful solo career and fewer manage to surpass the works of the band they were previously a part of but Brittany Howard has done just that.

Favorite Track: What Now

Loss of Life by MGMT

After the incredible marvel that was Little Dark Age, we waited many years for MGMT to follow up that record with something that would push the boundary of indie pop even more. Little did we know that MGMT was preparing for a more reserved and contemplative record. One that tackles the idea of loss and the slow deterioration of the mind. From tracks like “Mother Nature” to “Nothing to Declare”, we hear the group question their place in this world and what makes life even worth living. It’s these deep philosophical questions that makes this record different from Little Dark Age. If their previous album was the outburst from learning the harsh reality of life, this album is the growth and slow realization that we are the ones that need to create meaning and love in our lives. 

Favorite Track: Nothing to Declare

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