Vampire Weekend are one of the most hailed and respected bands of the modern era for their eclectic sense of cultural influence and, first and foremost, their ability to craft together bangers and incredible albums. Here are their top 40 songs according to us:
40: Taxi Cab – from Contra
One of the more sincere breakup anthems we have heard from Vampire Weekend, Taxi Cab sees Ezra Koenig use hushed tones to display a sad emotion in his voice and set the tone for the track. The instrumental is understated and centred mainly around this pulsing 808 beat that gives off an atmosphere of longing and escapism.
39: California English – from Contra
This track somewhat takes the form of a mockumentary aiming at the area of California (obviously), using native slang to highlight snobbery of east coast attitudes towards the Cali area. California English is one of the more amped up and rapid fire hits of the Vampire Weekend catalogue and uses staggered drums as well as charming violins to create organised musical chaos, if you will.
38: Rich Man – from Father of the Bride
Blatantly inspired by old school campfire singalongs, Rich Man has this gorgeous Sierra Leone guitar sample which is met with melodic orchestral arrangements and touching lyrical sentiments. Ezra’s delivery is wonderfully catchy, particularly his repetition of different numbers throughout that make this song hard to ignore. It’s a nice love song with negative undertones of capital wealth and greed; not a combination you hear every day.
37: Big Blue – from Father of the Bride
On Big Blue, one of the shortest tracks on Father of the Bride, Ezra Koenig sings about his love for nature and the ocean; discussing the strong emotions he feels when near it. It’s a tale of loss and escapism from reality as the protagonist goes to his ‘happy place’ if you will to observe the seas. The beach-inspired guitars help hammer home this point if the lyrics don’t do that for you already.
36: One (Blake’s Got A New Face) – from Vampire Weekend
This song is believed to be about William Blake, a Romantic era poet whose influence changed the landscape of poetry from then to now. By saying Blake’s Got A New Face, Ezra is implying that his writing style inspired new people to pioneer the art form, not just in poetry but also in witty and fun music pieces like this one.
35: Diplomat’s Son – from Contra
This track is seen as Rostam’s coming out anthem, a gay love parable full of artistic imagery that also weaves into paying homage to the late frontman of The Clash, Joe Strummer. Diplomat’s Son uses bubbly 808s and M.I.A. samples to create a dreamy atmosphere that is matched by Ezra’s whimsical harmonies about Strummer’s working class accent in his music; despite being raised by a diplomat.
34: 2021 – from Father of the Bride
Music nerds across the globe rejoiced upon hearing this song for the first time, mainly because of the stunning synth sample of a song from legendary Japanese musician Haruomi Hosono. Hosono himself has come out and said on record that he loves the song and thinks Ezra did a great job, something that sent Ezra into fangirl meltdown. 2021 is a subtle but marvellous short track that perhaps alludes to the band’s hiatus after Modern Vampires of the City came out.
33: Mansard Roof – from Vampire Weekend
The band’s first ever single and opening track to the debut album, Mansard Roof is the ideal introduction to Vampire Weekend and what they are as a musical outfit. It epitomises the Ivy League aesthetic they’ve rocked over the years with quirky lyrics and wonderful crashing drums to maintain the song’s bopping rhythm.
32: M79 – from Vampire Weekend
The word ‘preppy’ gets thrown around a lot when discussing Vampire Weekend; and when you listen to songs like M79 you can kind of understand why. This track has wonderful orchestral strings and surfer guitar licks, while lyrically looking at high-school friends and the journey on the M79 bus in Manhattan.
31: Bambina – from Father of the Bride
A sub-two minute acoustic ballad which compares the loss of faith to the loss of life, Bambina bridges the gap between people on both ends of the spectrum (believers and Unbelievers if you will). Ezra’s fear of death is very well documented in his music and he aims for that lyrically here as well, stating that no matter who you are the idea of death is daunting; particularly the fact that you have no control over it when the time comes.
30: Unbearably White – from Father of the Bride
A tongue-in-cheek jab at their own perception, Vampire Weekend adopt the title given to them of Unbearably White because of their preppy Ivy League credentials; but they turn it into a blissful anthem in the process. He uses each stanza to describe different things as Unbearably White, whether it be snow, paper or himself, ensuring us all that this song isn’t in fact just about white people.
29: White Sky – from Contra
Highly synthesised instrumentals, fast paced vocal deliveries and digital glitches; could this be described as a rap song? White Sky is an unapologetic good time of an anthem with a harmony-based chorus and the sounds of Vampire Weekend testing new waters with joyous success.
28: I Stand Corrected – from Vampire Weekend
One of Vampire Weekend’s most sombre cuts, I Stand Corrected replaces Afro-pop guitar chords with string arrangements and subtle melody keys while singing about accepting fault and wanting to better oneself. The cute and precise strings on this track have a throwback sound with modern tinges and, as ever, Ezra’s vocal delivery is enchanting; you could say he is in “perfect harmony” here.
27: Jerusalem, New York, Berlin – from Father of the Bride
The finale to Father of the Bride, it is the intention of Jerusalem, New York, Berlin to pay homage to the three historical landmark cities in Jewish culture. It’s a song all about connecting to a greater entity and feeling the passion of something so grand as a city and it’s links to religion (Jerusalem), money (New York) and culture (Berlin). It’s a fitting end to an honest album full of introspective concepts involving those three very topics.
26: Don’t Lie – from Modern Vampires of the City
No prizes for guessing what this one is about. Yep, Don’t Lie is about, drum roll please, lying. Deeper meaning reaches out to the desire and desperation you have for a new lover to be faithful and honest, looking at the fear of betrayal from those closest to you. The metaphorical “ticking clock” mentioned in the chorus of this song links to the life and death concept of the whole Modern Vampires of the City album.
25: Horchata – from Contra
Mystery within song meanings is a common theme of Vampire Weekend; and Horchata, the opening track to their sophomore album Contra is yet another fine example of that. Literally speaking, Horchata is a rice or nut milk drank in Brazil but this song doesn’t strike me as being a celebratory anthem about said drink. It is scattered and a bit all over the shop, but the obvious Kanye West 808’s & Heartbreak influence is heavily felt here.
24: Hold You Now (feat. Danielle Haim) – from Father of the Bride
The first song on Vampire Weekend’s newest album is Hold You Now, a marriage ballad that features one third of famous sibling band HAIM. It possesses a subtle beauty with acoustic strumming in the verses and a joyous choir inclusion in between. The duo’s chemistry works brilliantly as their lyrical back-and-forth sets you up for the remainder of Father of the Bride.
23: Flower Moon (feat. Steve Lacy) – from Father of the Bride
Along with Steve Lacy, Ezra Koeing uses heavy vocal effect to create an otherworldly atmosphere around what he says before the funky musical breakdown. Flower Moon is very chant-oriented in the verse with perhaps more focus being placed on the instrumental dexterity here, using a wide variety of production techniques and PLENTY of guitar playing. For lack of a better word, it’s just a lovely track.
22: The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance – from Vampire Weekend
As is often the case on a Vampire Weekend track, The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance uses poetic references and name-drops to angle a specific narrative; this time looking at consumerism and the dangers facing the next generation. It’s a damning verdict but one that young listeners can truly relate to and embrace as they tackle the business end of their working life. It could also be seen as a message of doing what you want to do, not what the corporate organisations want society to do.
21: Oxford Comma – from Vampire Weekend
This song is literally about not giving a fuck about an Oxford Comma as the opening line states. It’s a “punctuation jam” as Ezra Koenig puts it, using slick guitar riffs and Lil Jon references to come across as innocent while also pointing the finger at the education system; mainly because of Ezra’s time as an English teacher.
20: Finger Back – from Modern Vampires of the City
As far as abstract song concepts go, Vampire Weekend have been there, done it, and wore just about every single t-shirt; perhaps none more so than Finger Back. It is about an unlikely love story between an orthodox Jewish girl and a man who works in an Arab falafel shop (seriously, listen to the bridge). The track has regal major notes littered throughout it to lure people into juxtaposed styles of upbeat production and bleak lyricism.
19: Campus – from Vampire Weekend
Campus was primarily written by Rostam Batmaglij and is inspired by one of the short stories frontman Ezra Koenig crafted from his time at Columbia University. It contains a heart-wrenching chorus as Ezra sings about having to pretend he never wants to see this girl again; looking at unrequited love from a literary standpoint given all that he has learned in education.
18: Everlasting Arms – from Modern Vampires of the City
Everlasting Arms is a religion-heavy track is taken from the fabled hymn Leaning on the Everlasting Arms and, more specifically, the segment in which judgement day is mentioned. The song is Ezra’s platform to challenge the differences between the Buddhism vs Christianity debate and does so in a way that doesn’t come across preachy, instead as a big time bop.
17: Worship You – from Modern Vampires of the City
Hold tight FIFA 14 for including this on the soundtrack, it’s an absolute bop. Worship You is a direct address to God from a Christian who is showing him what God would want to see, but also asking for his guidance. The instrumental is so captivating and when met with Ezra’s gorgeous harmonies it is enough to make the hairs on your neck stand up.
16: Holiday – from Contra
Holiday has always been a staple moment in the Vampire Weekend evolution for it’s bouncy sounds and fresh-off-the-beach vibe; but it’s lyrical bashing of glorifying war on television and film is what really makes this track intriguing. Ezra sings of his fear of events like the Iraqi war and the Kubrickian approach to displaying this brutality on a worldwide scale. It may well be the only song to mention the now iconic Futura text font used for all of the band’s promotional work.
15: Obvious Bicycle – from Modern Vampires of the City
The opening track to Vampire Weekend’s magnum opus project Modern Vampires of the City is a stripped back ballad about a man who questions his importance in life. The narrative discusses and addresses the very common feeling of insignificance in a gigantic world, using Ezra as the centrepiece of a generation that are getting older and seeing life pass them by. The piano melody lifts the track and provides a solid base for the song’s greater context.
14: Sympathy – from Father of the Bride
Probably the most pulsing and high-tempo track on Father of the Bride, what makes Sympathy stand out is how intriguingly unique it is instrumentally. In this short burst chorus we are given single string pick guitars and whispered Ezra vocals before the verses kick into life with more obvious rhythm and crashing cymbals. The tinge of flamenco on this track gives it such colour and life.
13: Unbelievers – from Modern Vampires of the City
Tying in with the concept birthed on the album’s previous track Obvious Bicycle, Ezra and co. look at the human stance in modern society on Unbelievers. He uses vast religious imagery to depict a scaremongering tactic for said Unbelievers while also questioning the modernised trends of having a distinct lack of self-awareness due to differing faiths and beliefs. It feels to me like an attempt at a coming-together anthem, attempting to embrace people from everywhere in the form of a catchy as fuck indie-pop track.
12: This Life – from Father of the Bride
Perhaps one of the most lyrically poignant songs of the Vampire Weekend discography, This Life takes the mantle of being the grandiose statement of Father of the Bride as a whole. It looks at Ezra’s continual finding of himself despite his adult age and self-criticism that it has taken him this long to recognise obvious things; “I just thought it didn’t rain in California”. The track is instrumentally jolly and serene, the kind of thing that wouldn’t be out of place on a sofa advert.
11: Step – from Modern Vampires of the City
Step, the third track off Modern Vampires of the City is inspired by the classic Sounds of Mischief anthem Step To My Girl (a line that Vampire Weekend interpolate into their own song). Ezra found himself writing his own song structure based off that very phrase and it turned into a kaleidoscopic slow jam that has since become one of the band’s most adored compositions to date.
10: Harmony Hall – from Father of the Bride
The lead single from Father of the Bride, the first taste of new Vampire Weekend music in over five years, Harmony Hall saw a change of pace for Ezra and co. following Rostam’s departure from the band. It still maintains a “Vampire Weekend-esque” sound but opts for charm and beauty rather than pace and energy. With each passing lyrical breath, Ezra opens up about the changing of events over time and how growing older has affected him. It’s sublime in execution and the ideal lead single for a band who refuse to settle.
9: Sunflower (feat. Steve Lacy) – from Father of the Bride
Songs struggle to get funkier and slicker than this. Adopting the help of The Internet’s guitarist Steve Lacy gave Sunflower an attitude that is unrivalled on the band’s most recent album. The vocal freestyling alongside the guitar licks give this song a quirky edge that you’d expect to hear on a Beatles or Tame Impala track but Vampire Weekend fully immerse themselves into the music and make it their own. Easily one of the catchiest hits of their career.
8: Hannah Hunt – from Modern Vampires of the City
In an interview, Ezra stated that Hannah Hunt is named after a girl he sat next to in Buddhism class in college (that is quite possibly the most Ezra Koenig sentence of all time). He found himself intrigued by her name and used it to his greatest strength on this piano-based anthem, which appears to be about the upsetting aftermath of a failed romance. Instrumentally, this song absolutely rips in the bridge, when the piano kicks in and the drums crash it is breathtaking.
7: Cousins – from Contra
Contra’s second single came in the form of Cousins, a frantic millennial indie bop that looks at familial status and how upbringing can influence your later years. Ezra uses passionate and satirical lyricism to portray his point, referring to someone as a “Greatest Hits 2006 little list-maker” which is probably a nod to music critics; something that thematically stands tall on here. Thankfully, Ezra didn’t turn his back “on the bitter world” and continued to make great music.
6: Ya Hey – from Modern Vampires of the City
It’s open for interpretation as to what Ya Hey truly means but there are obvious religious tones to it. After the touring of Contra the band started trying different things on their own away from music; it was described by the band as an “almost existential crisis” and once they came back they all truly felt the need to commentate that importance. The music itself has large reggae influences as well as some glitchy harmonies in the chorus, it’s a glorious listen.
5: Walcott – from Vampire Weekend
Based on the protagonist of Ezra’s short story titled Vampire Weekend, the track follows the path of Walcott; a post-modernist who is planning his journey outside of “cape cod”. The musical arrangement is gorgeous and regal, coinciding majestically with the chant-styled vocal delivery in which Ezra directly addresses Walcott and advises him on what to do for his own safety.
4: Diane Young – from Modern Vampires of the City
A cheery song about death (if such a thing can possibly exist), Diane Young was Vampire Weekend’s “fun” take on the frenetic lifestyle that comes with dying young; a play on words of the track title. The instrumental is rapid-fire and works hand-in-hand with the song meaning to piece together an absolute banger that can swiftly make you forget how bleak the wider context actually is. It’s a ride or die song with an identical narrative.
3: A-Punk – from Vampire Weekend
The final boss of indie bops. Everyone knows A-Punk and everyone has danced around to it at some stage, singing along to obscure references about the Hudson River and turquoise harmonicas. The instrumental is utterly astounding from start to finish, running at little over two minutes with experimental uses of instruments like a chamberlain and woodwind pieces; simply put it is a classic of the indie-rock era.
2: Giving Up The Gun – from Contra
Inspired by a book passed on to Ezra by his father of the same title, Giving Up The Gun is about nostalgia and the daring wondering of simpler times; whether we would trade success for previous ease of life. The instrumental is charming and sweet with a march-style drum beat and xylophonic sounds in the chorus; it fits the bill of Contra beautifully with more of an electro-pop flavour. It truly is an indie-pop ballad for the ages.
1: Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa – from Vampire Weekend
It truly does not get better than Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa. It’s as artsy as it gets and is named after a short story of the same title that Ezra wrote in 2005 to look at different cultures. There’s iconic Peter Gabriel references, implications of phone sex and African-styled percussion on this unruly bop; it is effortlessly cool and the best song Vampire Weekend have ever made.