What do you get when you cross the frontman of the indie rock group The Walkmen with arguably the main creative driving force behind the transcendent rock group Vampire Weekend? The debut collaborative album by Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam Batmangilij titled ‘I Had a Dream That You Were Mine’ gives an infectious and ultimately satisfying answer to that question.
The group, cleverly called Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam, features the strong and powerful vocals of Leithauser mixed with the uncanny ear for production, instrumentation and songwriting of Rostam. The end result is an album that at times eclipses conventional indie-rock genre boundaries and even standard musical periods.
The album opens with the strong single ‘A 1000 Times,’ the first song the group released to the public on July 22nd. It showcases both Leithauser’s unique vocals and Rostam’s knack for songwriting, as the lyrics paint a vivid picture of a one-sided love story lost somewhere in the past. The track opens with the lyric “I had a dream that you were mine” and it quickly becomes apparent that dream isn’t coming true.
‘Rough Going (I Won’t Let Up)’ offers the first taste of what can be best described as a sonic curveball. Rostam’s keyboard work on this combined with the repetition of the phrase “sha-doobie” transport the listener to a 1950’s dance hall, where Leithauser’s intense vocals are front-and-center. The combination makes for an interesting juxtaposition and it’s the first of a number of occasions these two artists bend genres and time periods to create their surprisingly cohesive vision.
The angelic backing vocals and the rapid-fire guitar picking set the tone for ‘In a Black Out,’ a song where Leituhauser harmonizes beautifully with Rostam’s arrangement. The song even caught Apple’s attention, as it’s prominently featured in one of their newest ads for the iPhone 7.
Arguably the strongest track on I Had a Dream That You Were Mine is the most recent single, ‘When The Truth Is…’ It’s on this song where Leithauser’s vocals are a perfect match for Rostam’s layered instrumentation, as he croons magnificently over clean keyboard notes, a sad-sounding electric guitar lick and the occasional glare of horns. He sings the all too relatable story of drunken loneliness in the vacuum that is New York City.
The two channel their inner Bob Dylan for the heavily folk inspired ‘You Ain’t That Young Kid’ and Rostam lets his Vampire Weekend roots truly shine on ‘The Bride’s Dad.’ All things considered, these two are a match made in indie-rock heaven. They consistently push each other on this record and the end result is a unique and memorable release. Some of the choruses leave a bit to be desired, but this is a mature, layered and deeply emotional debut album for the collaborative group. ‘I Had a Dream That You Were Mine’ is out now via Glassnote Records.