'Harmony Hall' & Beyond: Vampire Weekend’s Best Columbia References

Vampire Weekend recently released their long awaited new single “Harmony Hall” and its B-side, “2021.” As a member of the Columbia/Barnard class of 2021, I feel obligated to say something about it. VW are known for their collegiate aesthetic, and their music has always made references to their alma mater Columbia. To be totally honest, I didn’t even make the connection that Harmony Hall was a Columbia dorm at first—I have no idea how many buildings CU owns. Anyway—the song slaps, and in it’s honor, here’s a list of Vampire Weekend’s best Columbia references.

1. “Campus”

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“Campus” as a whole is probably the most obvious choice because it’s, well, literally about Columbia’s campus. Like any good critic, though, I’m going to dive deeper! In the bridge, Ezra sings, “In the afternoon, you're out on the stone and grass / And I'm sleeping on the balcony after class”—the stone and grass is a reference to Low Plaza and South Lawn, and the balcony is that of Hamilton Hall (confirmed by the man himself). Journalism!

2. “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” ​​

“Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” is not only the name of a major bop but the name of a short story collection Ezra wrote as a senior at Columbia. The collection has spawned many-a Vampire Weekend lyric—"Campus” was written by former member Rostam based off a story, “Cruel Professor,” from the collection, and “Diplomat’s Son” came from another Koenig story.

3. “Finger Back”

Sing "Next Year in Jerusalem" / You know, the one at 103rd and Broadway? / 'Cause this Orthodox girl fell in love / With the guy at the falafel shop.” This is a reference to Jerusalem—the falafel shop on 103rd and Broadway (which you may have inferred). I haven’t actually been, but Bwog went in 2013 when Modern Vampires of the City came out and asked the owner his thoughts on the song. His answer: “I’m busy making falafel.” Fair!

4. “Oxford Comma”

Let it be known that I give a fuck about an oxford comma. The song was inspired by a Facebook group Ezra discovered made by Columbia students called “Students for the Preservation of the Oxford Comma”—because of course it was.

5. Vampire Weekend in general

Is it cheating to just include a whole album in this list? VW’s debut is a Columbia baby - it was recorded in dorm rooms and music studios across campus, its lyrics derive from the experience of growing throughout college, and its cover is a Polaroid of a chandelier in St. Anthony Hall house (another building I only sort of knew was part of Columbia) where the band played one of their first shows. I have this album to thank—and all of their records - for getting me to really care about Columbia in the first place. And look where I am now! Writing a listicle about their lyrics for a Columbia outlet!