It’s been a very long time since we’ve heard from Vampire Weekend; their last full length release, Modern Vampires of the City, was released in 2013. With six years under their belt, one might expect the band to return to the fold full force with a novel sound and fresh ideas. Instead, Vampire Weekend delivered a lackluster EP. Casually, This Life/Unbearably White is a fine listen: It’s moderately catchy, sonically cheery, and consistently palatable. But beyond a few shining instrumental moments, it’s immensely boring as it falls into a refined palate of the past decade’s most successful indie tropes lumped with a derivative '70s sound.
As per usual, Ezra Koenig’s delivers a spirited vocal performance across the EP’s six tracks; the singer has a knack for catchy hooks that hold down each song. Outside of that, the songwriting is dull. In an effort to revitalize their sound, Vampire Weekend and Koenig have crutched themselves upon derivation: Several songs from This Life/Unbearably White sound like hits from the past. The guitar on “This Life” obviously recalls Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”; with modern instrumentation, “Sunflower” and “Big Blue” try to hide the fact that they’re essentially Beatles songs, but the melodic similarities give them away.
The only exception on the EP is “2021.” Though it’s the shortest track and least adorned instrumentally, it’s also the most interesting. A quick, sporadic trap–style hi–hat accents the minimal beat while a beautiful sample punctuates Koenig’s lines. It reads like a vignette, as Koenig looks to the future pondering whether his lover will still think about them even as “copper beams go green, steal beams go rust.” The guitar soloing still sounds quite '70s, but it’s excusable considering the song’s entire aesthetic is not as blatantly nostalgic. Rather, the vintage guitar tone adds an interesting aesthetic element to a song that derives influence from a variety of genres.
If Vampire Weekend is planning a comeback, they should be focused on writing songs like “2021,” not “The Life” or “Sunflower.” Genre is dying as contemporary artists are writing stylistically amalgamated music. Take Lil Peep’s emo rock and trap, Lil Nas X’s recent hit “Old Town Road,” or Kacey Musgraves’ refreshing take on country music. As we enter post–genre, acts will be required to evolve their sounds or be left in the dust. Vampire Weekend, a band that sparked a wave of indie frenzy in the springtime of our youth, seems to have missed the boat with This Life/Unbearably White.