Today’s Song: Connecting What Was, to What Is… or Trying to, With Vampire Weekend’s “Connect”

Vampire Weekend © Michael Schmelling
Vampire Weekend © Michael Schmelling
Vampire Weekend have made a triumphant return with 2024’s ‘Only God Was Above Us,’ an album full of maturity, stylised through the reflectiveness found in songs like “Connect.”
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Stream: “Connect” – Vampire Weekend

In 2020, The Strokes released The New Abnormal, an album radiating newfound maturity through the lens of a band realising times had changed, and so they had, especially compared to the days of 2001’s Is This It. To discover this newfound depth of songwriting and a bittersweet openness in the face of time’s inescapability ‘struck me like a chord,’ to steal a lyric from “At The Door.”

I was at university then, and more aware of time’s knack of accelerating without ever looking back than ever before.

Flash forward a handful of years, to Vampire Weekend’s fifth studio album, Only God Was Above Us. Their newest record (released in April 2024) pangs of the sentiments laid bare in The New Abnormal: Ezra Koenig and co. have grown older, the world around them has grown older, and they have the awareness to recognise the changes – external, and internal. Of course, they do this with the same amount of ‘prep’ and bounce we’ve come to expect as trademark.

Only God Was Above Us - Vampire Weekend
Only God Was Above Us – Vampire Weekend

The album’s fourth track “Connect” opens with a blizzard-like flurry of piano arpeggios, before Koenig introduces us to a character reminiscing on past days that, against the odds, ‘don’t fade’ despite being ‘elegantly wasted.’ This is where a key image appears:

‘Before you lost your spark
Took acid in the park’

The memory that the song emanates from, is a psychedelic trip. The song’s protagonist progresses through New York City, eventually encountering “this insane cross-section of humanity,” as Koenig described to John Kennedy on an edition of Radio X’s X-Posure. Is this the connection the song’s title alludes to? A moment of drug-induced, macrocosmic spirituality, where the protagonist himself joins the population and architecture in one grand moment? Koenig himself explains the intrigue he takes from the fusion of “the very down-to-earth, no-nonsense side of New York with the spiritual, psychedelic side,” taken from the same interview.

The crisis rears in each pre-chorus, with their swelling choirs adding poignancy, where our protagonist walks “to where we kept the box of wires,” or to “where we met the first time, overwhelmed,” before a pulsing chorus tells us, “I know once it’s lost it’s never found.” A squealing, pleading Koenig whimpers “I need it now” in response – desperate, in as high a register as he can muster. Each pre-chorus’ crunching chord progressions swell, changes happening faster, as we approach a burst of tension.

I know once it’s lost, it’s never found
I need it now
The grid is buried in the ground
Hopelessly down
Vampire Weekend © Michael Schmelling
Vampire Weekend © Michael Schmelling

The protagonist has long since departed those psychedelic, lackadaisical malaises of old, and having aged, they reflect on how far they’ve come – pondering a past meeting-point of sentimental significance, perhaps – only to realise that that sense of spiritual connection has gone away. In perhaps gaining maturity, freedom, and that grand ability to connect ‘it’ all, has potentially been sacrificed.

I read the parking rules
As Amsterdam unspooled and trucks sped on ephedrine
The things we used to see
The sandhogs in the street, the chickens in her bedroom
Now is it strange I can’t connect?
It isn’t strange, but I could check
Walked around to where
we met the first time, overwhelmed

You cannot outrun the future. The hauntings of ‘Mansard Roof’s’ drum patterns try to implement themselves on the percussion of this song, bashfully, but they are stopped abruptly every time. Vampire Weekend’s first ever single, itself a song about sightseeing and essences that have been lost, can no longer be connected to. Instead, we are left with that same piano, jauntily spinning away.

Suddenly, as the piano’s skittish scales blur, we realise it’s all “happenin’ too soon,” a proverbial “book of Revelations” – predictions about our futures – changing from prophecy, to current reality. Those days of acid in the park and grand spiritual discoveries are long gone. Chair-based vacations (how exotic) are the equivalent of those faded adventures.

A country house in June
It’s happening too soon, your book of revelations
We can’t unmake the bed
We used the chair instead and called it a vacation

A Review of Vampire Weekend's 'Only God Was Above Us'


Is it coincidence that, in the slow process of conjuring Only God Was Above Us, Koenig states to Rolling Stone that, whilst his family were busy, he would simply be “out there pounding the pavements of Tokyo, lost in [his] thoughts”? Is that a parallel to the spiritual awakening of acid-fueled rambles around NYC? What about the leopard that zips about a caged enclosure in the “Connect” visualizer video – is it that its confines are the best adventure it can muster, the cage a blockade to wider connections? Or are these themselves connections that I cannot really find, but am forcing?

Either way, it is comforting that Vampire Weekend’s frontman may no longer be able to connect, but can still produce an album that explores that idea, and related themes, so openly and fruitfully, even without the need of acid.

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:: stream/purchase Only God Was Above Us here ::
:: more on Vampire Weekend here ::
Stream: “Connect” – Vampire Weekend

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Only God Was Above Us - Vampire Weekend

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📸 © Michael Schmelling

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