Record Bulletin

Hamilton Leithauser & Rostam – “I Had a Dream That You Were Mine” Review

hamilton-leithauser-i-had-a-dream-that-you-were-mineHAMILTON LEITHAUSER & ROSTAM – I Had a Dream That You Were Mine (Glassnote): Former Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s shtick has always been that of the drunken, crooning troubadour stuffed inside a pea coat, wailing and warbling as he stumbled from microphone to microphone in search of a higher note. His fellow collaborator, Rostam Batmanglij, formerly of Vampire Weekend, has always harbored in his production an affinity for playful, postmodern poppiness. As a result, this is the first of Leithauser’s post-Walkmen projects that doesn’t sound like an addendum to that catalog, instead coming off more as Contra-era outtakes without Ezra Koenig’s vocals or wit mixed in.

The collaboration more or less works. “Rough Going (I Don’t Let Up)” and “When the Truth Is…” capitalize on the doo-wop fascination Leithauser explored briefly on Black Hours (to which Rostam also contributed), and lead single “A 1000 Times” (which, it must be pointed out, properly read would be “a one thousand times”) instantly launches Leithauser into the yelping terrain he owns like few other vocalists do. The unlikely marriage between Leithauser’s woozy, freewheeling sensibilities and Rostam’s precise pop arrangements sometimes leaves Leithauser sounding more like a subdued M. Ward than the high-hollering leader of Brooklyn’s least sober alt/indie outfit. But Rostam’s precision is also what keeps the album moving along, injecting whirring carousel organs, choral backups, and surprise flourishes—none of which is completely foreign to Walkmen albums, but is consistently used to better effect with Rostam’s sense of pop timing. Rostam never allows any track to get mired in its own aimlessness, because unlike Paul Maroon (another former Walkmen and Leithauser collaborator), Rostam employs more than one guitar tone.

Positively received by critics, they endlessly remark on Leithauser’s maturity. I like I Had a Dream That You Were Mine a little less because I prefer Leithauser’s messier, faux-drunken days, the cluttered fog of clattering guitar and clanking drums from which his signature howl emerged. This is cleaner, more immediate, and while those are admirable qualities and ones I often look for, they’re never why I liked the Walkmen or Leithauser in the first place. Leithauser, though, has been spitting out so much material as of late—Black Hours in 2014, Dear God and I Could Have Sworn with Paul Maroon in 2015, and now this collab—that the tunes are getting a bit thin. Listenable, but a bit thin. I wouldn’t discount a Christmas album in 2017. B PLUS (*)

Related:

Hamilton Leithauser & Paul Maroon – I Could Have Sworn (Leithauser & Leithauser EP ’15): B PLUS (*)
Peter Matthew Bauer – Liberation! (Mexican Summer ’14):
 A MINUS
Walter Martin – We’re All Young Together (Family Jukebox ’14): B PLUS (*)
Hamilton Leithauser – Black Hours (Ribbon Music ’14): A MINUS
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (XL Recordings ’13): A
The Walkmen – Heaven (Fat Possum ’12): B PLUS (*)

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