On February 1, 2021, a mysterious and unplayable album appeared on Spotify. Most people didn’t see it at all, and it disappeared as quickly and inexplicably as it had arrived. For fans of Vampire Weekend, however, it was a tantalizing enigma. Titled 40:42, it contained two covers of the song “2021,” each clocking in at 20 minutes and 21 seconds. Although leaks became available if you knew who to ask, it finally had its official release on February 4.
The first cover is by experimental jazz saxophonist Sam Gendel, the second by jam band Goose. This may be an odd pairing to the casual listener, but for avid fans of Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig‘s Apple Music 1 radio show, Time Crisis, it comes as no surprise. On Time Crisis, Koenig mentioned Gendel’s Satin Doll as a favorite album of 2020, and Goose is an oft-mentioned topic of conversation.
Gendel’s rendition, subtitled In the Space Between Two Pieces of Wood, begins with the slow breath of his saxophone and the bittersweet feeling of a new year—wintery, post-holiday, shades of Auld Lang Syne. As it progresses, Gendel traverses a number of iterations, combining and recombining elements. At times serene and naturalistic, at times funky and industrial, at times electro-ambient, the melody shines throughout. Occasionally reminiscent of Vampire Weekend’s own idiosyncratic production, one might wonder if the track is a signal of things to come.
This question has a clearer answer on Goose’s cover, subtitled January 5th, To Be Exact. The dating of a track is a clear nod to the jam tradition that Goose emerges from. (VW is evolving into this tradition on their latest tour, picking up the nickname “Jampire Weekend.”) The track is sonically much different from Gendel’s, but thematically similar. We join in on a progression, a narrative, a journey through what can be done with the song’s minimalistic beauty. Goose takes the listener on a voyage from the recognizable source material and returns to see its familiar shores transformed.