Release Date: Sep 23, 2016
Record label: Glassnote Entertainment Group
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
“I had a dream that you were mine,” sighs Hamilton Leithauser over twinkling piano; “I’ve had that dream a thousand times”. Then, not for the last time, he hits a desperate high – he’s walked, he’s “changed my crowd, ditched my tie”, but still can’t recapture his long-held memory. A 1000 Times is an opening track as startling as it is oddly timeless, and if, when it debuted in July, it promised great things of this pairing, the resulting album delivers.
It's not hard to hear Hamilton Leithauser's contributions to The Walkmen: that plaintive wail is the thing that made the band recognizable from their 2002 debut through the indefinite hiatus limbo in which they now reside. Rostam Batmanglij's fingerprints on Vampire Weekend, however, are harder to find. He played keyboards, surely, but starting with his Discovery record with Ra Ra Riot's Wes Miles and continuing through his first solo singles, and his production and writing work with other artists including Charlie XCX and Carly Rae Jepsen, a picture emerged of a man with a far greater reach and impact on Vampire Weekend's overall sound than one might have thought.
After achieving international success with their previous bands, Hamilton Leithauser (The Walkmen) and Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend) scale back a bit on the scope but not on the passion with their glorious collaborative album, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine. The record comes off as if the lads raided their parents’ record collections, and joyously lost themselves in their own lively interpretations of the sounds and styles that have shaped them as artists over the years. The brokenhearted lead single "A 1000 Times" has a barroom, baroque-pop allure to it, while "Rough Going (I Won’t Let Up)" echoes the elegant spirit of 50’s era doo-wop, "In A Black Out" evokes the intellectual acuity of Simon & Garfunkel’s 60’s folk movement, and the gospel-like "Peaceful Morning" hints at the born-again tranquility of late-70’s Bob Dylan.
“I retired from my fight,” Hamilton Leithauser crooned with a smirk on his first great solo tune. “I Retired”’s very existence confirms that the singer didn’t actually give up, but Leithauser’s point about getting older and figuring out how to keep creating felt like a painfully self-aware revelation upon arrival, six months after his longtime band the Walkmen announced an indefinite hiatus. “All the fire in your heart won’t help/All the smoke up in your head,” he continued, figuring that “as long as [he] can keep the train rolling, then all [his] friends will always know they’ll never be alone.
The story of The Walkmen and Vampire Weekend is curiously intertwined with the trajectory of American indie rock in the 2000s. Both began as hyped New York groups associated with putative “scenes” before escaping the deathly grip of buzz, honing their sound and producing some of the 21st century’s most well-crafted rock music. Both benefited from indie rock’s increased mainstream exposure in the 2000s and 2010s, appearing on epochal soundtracks, winning Grammys and topping the charts.
Pairing members of two of the most celebrated indie bands of the 2000s and 2010s, Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam's I Had a Dream That You Were Mine was a collaboration long in the making. The duo initially met in the late 2000s when Vampire Weekend opened for the Walkmen, and though Rostam worked on some of Leithauser's solo debut, Black Hours, it's easy to hear why they opted to share the billing this time around. Rostam brings as much of his aesthetic to these songs as Leithauser does, and it's possible to hear bits of Vampire Weekend's precise pop and surprising flourishes as well as the Walkmen's rousing and rollicking sides on each track.
If there was an alt-music fantasy band draft (and, let’s face it, who wouldn’t love that?) chances are Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam Batmanglij might be two artists at the top of your wishlist. On the one hand you have one alt-rock’s most distinctive voices for The Walkmen, on the other a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who’s crafted some of the most effortlessly listenable hooks in the last decade for Vampire Weekend. It seems like a dream team.
It may not have been the most surprising post-Walkmen turn (bassist/organist Walter Martin's children's album We're All Young Together takes the prize on that one), but Black Hours, the solo debut from Hamilton Leithauser, marked a drastic change for the former frontman. No longer a gritty-voiced brawler at the back of the bar, Black Hours found him playing the barroom crooner, with inspiration drawn from Frank Sinatra and the American Songbook. For his latest release, Leithauser has teamed up with Black Hours' secret weapon, former Vampire Weekend instrumentalist-producer Rostam Batmanglij, for an album-long teamup that travels through time and genre, including harmonica folk, country-rock and doo-wop.
Producer Rostam Batmanglij, formerly the keyboard player with Vampire Weekend, was one of the collaborators on Walkmen singer Hamilton Leithauser’s Sinatra-influenced 2014 album Black Hours. They had bonded in their hometown, Washington DC, where they occasionally met for ad-hoc sessions. But I Had a Dream That You Were Mine – its wistful title taken from the opening line of the first track, the single A 1,000 Times – is the duo’s first full album together.
It remains to be seen just how big of an impact the sudden departure of Rostam Batmanglij will have on a band that found an exceedingly rich vein of form at the third time of asking. Announced in January, his exit from Vampire Weekend provoked both shock and a degree of sorrow, given the strength of 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City, a record in which the previously engaging but arguably surface-heavy New Yorkers tapped into quite sublime august songwriting. A little over two years ago, fellow NYC native Hamilton Leithauser put his Walkmen in storage as he sought to play further with the kind of voice that could tell you that you had mere minutes left to live and you’d probably be cool with it.
Hamilton Leithauser, former frontman for The Walkmen, and his new musical partner Rostam Batmanglij (ex-Vampire Weekend) have achieved something increasingly rare in the indie rock landscape on their first fully collaborative album. (Rostam contributed to a few songs on Leithauser’s 2014 solo album, Black Hours.) The 10 tracks on I Had A Dream That You Were Mine use small signposts that point to music of the past without fully devolving into pure pastiche. It’s a challenge for any artist really, as the easy route would to be give oneself over completely to aping the sound of an influence, something that both men should know well after starting off in their respective former day jobs mirroring various strains of post-punk.
The first sounds you hear on I Had A Dream You Were Mine are Hamilton Leithauser’s inimitable, raspy tenor and the plink of a barroom piano, likely played by Rostam Batmanglij. The piano melody follows the vocals in the opening strains of “A 1000 Times”, the song that contains a line with the duo’s album title. From the first, the two artists, better known for their work in group settings — Leithauser in the Walkmen and Rostam in Vampire Weekend — explore the delicate pairing of two solo artists in a duo.
We listen to music for many reasons, but one of the most mysterious is the pursuit of feelings we don’t like to experience—heartbreak, loneliness, regret. We listen to songs that remind us of how it feels to hurt, even when pain is the last thing we need. This sounds strange out of context, but what we’re doing is not quite creating a feeling, but looking at it from the outside, seeing its shape and the force of its impact without bearing its weight.
The Walkmen were a bug-eyed, curveball-throwing New York outfit of the 00s whose fairy godmother never quite outgunned fate. With the band on hiatus, raw-throated lead singer Hamilton Leithauser found himself studio-bound with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, game for a change. The result is this uncommon duo record that mixes sax—laden Irish bar doo-wop (Rough Going (I Don’t Let Up)), analogue synths and harmonica (You Ain’t That Young Kid), banjos (Peaceful Morning) and Leonard Cohen-ish chanson (In a Black Out).
And while there are flecks of both their previous bands here, it’s much more than just a straightforward hybrid. Rostam’s ambition was to take Hamilton’s distinctive, raw voice and set it in entirely new scenery. You may have heard the swoony, rueful, piano-led ‘A 1000 Times’. If you haven’t – and if there’s any justice in the world – you’ll probably hear it played at the end of the next wedding you attend.
Hamilton Leithauser has one of the most tactile voices in rock: a coarse yet viscous instrument, like wet concrete. So it’s striking that he keeps returning to the intangible, the realm of phantasm and reverie, on “I Had a Dream That You Were Mine,” his persuasively moody new collaboration with the producer and multi-instrumentalist known as Rostam. The album borrows its title from the first line in the opening track, “A 1000 Times,” which examines unrequited obsession in the form of a recurring dream.
An indie rock marriage for the ages, The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam have made a new pop record. Hamilton coming off a mediocre solo outing and Rostam hot off his announcement that Modern Vampires of the City would be his last record with the band, the biggest Vampire Weekend fans knowing what terrible news that really was. But VW fans rejoice, a new day has dawned.