It’s easy to miss the debut record from Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam. You might not know who they are from glancing at their names, but you’re likely familiar with their bands. Leithauser is the singer of Walkmen, and Rostam Batmanglij was formally a member of Vampire Weekend. I Had A Dream That You Were Mine is their debut record as musical partners.
And I Had A Dram That You Were Mine is a heck of a record. Leithauser’s vocal performance is practically unhinged, as intimate as it is performative. He has the intensity of an evangelical pastor on the bridge of “Sick as a Dog”. While his voice might be an acquired taste for some (see “1000 Times”), Leithauser’s performance is among the best in indie music this year.
The music itself is excellent too. Vampire Weekend will miss Batmanglij on their new record — it’s clear from I Had A Dream That You Were Mine that he’s a large part of their creative force. (According to Vampire Weekend’s lead vocalist Ezra Koenig, Rostam will still be contributing to their upcoming record — but who knows how much of it, or in what in capacity.)
It’s easy to compare I Had A Dream That You Were Mine to Vampire Weekend. Not unlike Rostam’s former band, there are no rules here. No two tracks are the same, often shifting from one genre to another (sometimes in a single song). “In a Black Out” feels like a flamenco-influenced pop piece, but “Rough Going (I Don’t Let Up”) pairs ’50s doo-wop with an indie sing-along chorus.
“A 1000 Times” shares the same genes as Vampire Weekend’s “Obvious Bicycle”, but it’s got the urgency and intensity of a Walkmen song. “The Bride’s Dad” has all the intensity of a Bob Dylan song. “The Morning Stars” has the musicality of Vampire Weekend, but the energy of a Walkmen song — but still sounds completely different from anything else on the record.
To be doubly clear: there are no rules here.
You can’t classify Leithauser + Rostam’s debut. That’s likely the point. Both musicians have something to prove. As an album, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine is a statement of creativity. These men want to be known not for their bands, but for their creative abilities.
Like every record from The Walkmen and Vampire Weekend, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine is special. It’s oozing with creativity. Its songwriting is impeccable. And its performances are top-notch. There’s nary a bad track. I Had A Dream That You Were Mine is a rare treat, and one of the year’s best.