Much like the winding acoustic guitar riff that slithers through “Harmony Hall,” a green serpent moves along a kitchen counter throughout Vampire Weekend’s Feb. 20 released video for the track. Shots pan from the snake to the band’s frontman, Ezra Koenig, making pancakes, drummer Chris Tomson and bassist Chris Baio jumping in a barren room, and the whole four piece (including guitarist Rostam Batmanglij) performing as the dark night sky is lit by billowing pyro effects.
’90s tropes abound in the music video: Dramatically spotlit and morphed by a fish-eye lens, Koenig sings while holding direct eye contact with the camera in some shots. Others show the band playing in a dark room while surrounded by lit gothic candelabras. The video remains completely unserious, and Jonah Hill even shows up for some pancakes at the end of the video, during which the band stands around the flat-top griddle as Koenig cooks away.
Symbols from Vampire Weekend’s upcoming 18-track double album Father of the Bride are also revealed throughout the video. A white logo appears during the first shot of the video, in which Koenig peers out an orange window, and a coiled green snake icon appears once the video’s title fades from the opening shots. The snake imagery plays on the “Harmony Hall” lyric “Anybody with a worried mind can never forgive the sight / Of wicked snakes inside a place you thought was dignified.”
Segmented in seemingly disconnected shots, “Harmony Hall” sends a message not through narrative but through cheeky clues. With its often encased settings, the video visualizes the overall feeling of being trapped expressed in the lyric from the chorus “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die”—a phrase borrowed from “Finger Back,” a track on 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City. White side frames also minimize the video frame, adding the same boxed-in feeling to the shots. Koenig dons a Columbia blue-patterned robe during the breakfast scenes, a possible nod to his alma mater, which—interestingly enough—is also home to a residence hall that shares a name with the song.
Overhead shots of Koenig’s robe floating as he twirls and a bright green frog graphic apparition when the frontman swats his spatula to the beat make the video effortlessly fun. Known for lacing rock riffs with classical music elements and eloquent lyricism, Vampire Weekend masterfully pits pretentious lyrics and thought-provoking symbolism against comically amusing action throughout the “Harmony Hall” video. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Koenig touched on the lighthearted character of the band’s latest music.
“On our first album, most of the songs were written in college, and it had a very youthful vibe,” Koenig said. “On the second and third records, the wide-eyed enthusiasm dimmed considerably. You see more of the world, and you’re more and more disheartened. But that trajectory can’t go on forever. After you make the black-and-white album cover with the songs about death, you can’t go deeper. This is the life-goes-on record.”
Featured Image by Columbia Records