Tag Archives: album review

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Album Review: Squanto – Rose Gold

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Rose Gold is the debut album by Calgary band Squanto. Together, Bobby Henderson (vocals, guitar, and bass), Wil Moralda (keys), Derick Lodovica (drums), Duncan McCartney (saxophone), along with Kat Westermann, Jolene Marie, and Connor Mead (backing vocals), contrive an album flooded with undertones of funk, jazz, disco, synthpop, and occasionally folk-rock. Although the album is quite multi-faceted, the crux of Rose Golds charm lies in its intricate and diverse instrumentals.

The opening track, “Act Your Age” melds the carefree strumming of ‘70s folk-rock with the spry synths and keys of early ‘80s synthpop. Despite the overt folk-rock and synthpop influence on this track (and Rose Gold as a whole), Squanto’s blending of distinct genres and Henderson’s youthful yet gravelly vocals manage to strike a contemporary sound. The height of Squanto’s experimentation is found on “Comin’ Down,” where the band concocts its most elaborate instrumental. The track commences with a sprightly jazz-pop tune; however, halfway through the piece the saxophone pierces through and ushers in a thick jazz melody. McCartney’s saxophone is reminiscent of a much tamer and more primitive version of Dick Parry’s magnetic saxophone on The Dark Side of the Moon (particularly “Us and Them”).

Compared to the rest of the album, the track “Jade Green” experiments less with its structure and sound. That being said, Henderson’s raspy vocals coupled with a funky instrumental produce a groovy melody that is memorable in its own right. Album closer “Times A Thief” finds Squanto crafting a gentle tune, evocative of quintessential early ‘70s folk-rock. Though distinct from the rest of Rose Gold, this simple, almost pastoral track delicately draws the album to a close.

Rose Gold is strewn with buoyant melodies containing hints of disco, synthpop, and a dash of folk-rock. On the whole, the album exudes a very youthful feel, which is probably due to its grainy production and lackadaisical style. Nonetheless, the album’s laid-back quality doesn’t deter from Squanto’s embellished instrumentals and makes Rose Gold an ideal listen for a lazy Sunday morning.

– Review by Soraya Mamiche Afara

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Album Review: RTJ3 – Run The Jewels

maxresdefaultOn January 20th, many Americans will be searching for a way to vent their frustration about the current state of the nation; for my fellow ex-pats, look no further: Killer Mike and El-P, the masterminds behind Run the Jewels, have got you covered. As “Volga Don” (nickname courtesy of my clever grandfather) ascends to the highest public office in the United States, you can lift your speakers to the heavens and blast “2100” until you feel stable enough to re-enter into society. RTJ3 aims to be the antidote to our current national and global angst, with the mentality that sometimes, you just need to get mad. Run the Jewels are not known to sugar-coat or present their lyrics on a bed of roses, and on RTJ3 they are as blunt and sharp-tongued as ever. Killer Mike and El-P take turns shooting barbed rhymes at rapid-fire speed, whether crowing over the success of their nearly-four year collaboration or preaching on the injustices of society.

Run the Jewels have never shied away from addressing issues they find abhorrent, and over time they have mastered the craft of yelling through a bullhorn backed by complex production. El-P has outdone himself on this album, creating stable and well-rounded tracks that simmer and swirl underneath his and Killer Mike’s rhymes. The pair has tapped a host of up-and-coming powerhouses in the rap and hip hop fields, including Danny Brown (“Hey Kids (Bumaye)”) and Trina (“Panther Like A Panther”). Kamasi Washington, renowned sax player who appeared on the scene with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, features in the closest thing to a Run the Jewels ballad (“Thursday in the Danger Room”). The attitudes on RTJ3 range from a mad rage against class divisions (“A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters”) to the stereotypical pat-yourself-on-the-shoulder vibe (“Legend Has It”) put out by countless rap artists; though through the clever lyricism of Run the Jewels, this kind of trope doesn’t feel hackneyed. “Thursday in the Danger Room” addresses two very different losses suffered by Killer Mike and El-P: the former’s friend shot in the street for gang-related reasons, the latter’s close buddy dying in a hospital of a fatal illness.

RTJ3 doesn’t necessarily start of with a bang, but rather more of a low simmering energy. “Down” is a tightly-produced track that shakes off any braggadocio carried over from RTJ2; the boys are back and man, are they ready to go. “Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost)” carries the torch with a sinister background melody and sampling The Twilight Zone. Here, Run the Jewels address the rise of riots in response to the blatant police misconduct that has rampaged the U.S. The track is an adrenaline-packed analysis of the reasoning behind the looting and violence that inevitably accompanies what usually start out as peaceful protests. “Thieves!” isn’t the most diverse track on RTJ3, but it doesn’t have to be; the powerful lyrics featured here speak for themselves, and reverberate long after the closing sample of Martin Luther King’s speech on riots.

But Killer Mike and El-P are not done with rending righteousness from their listeners: “2100” begins as soon as “Thieves!” ends, now with a message of hope for those still reeling from the election results (it was released on November 9, the day after Trump’s victory was announced). BOOTS features on the chorus, almost moaning a plea: “Save my swollen heart/Bring me home from the dark/Take me up.” On “Panther Like A Panther” and “Oh Mama,” Run the Jewels return to more typical topics of discussion: crowing about their sexual prowess and general eminence, but assuring listeners they’re still kept in check by their familial ties and dedication to their loved ones.

Letting out this rage and sadness through song and music can be quite cathartic, and Run the Jewels recognize this better than anyone. Over the next four years, I will be returning to this album when I feel that words can no longer express my existential angst concerning the plight of our society. Killer Mike and El-P are certainly better lyricists than the average citizen, and use that advantage to give a voice to those who have none. It will certainly be interesting to see what Run the Jewels tackles next on RTJ4.

Album released: January 13, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

 

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Album Review: MonkeyJunk – Time To Roll

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Time To Roll is the fifth studio album from the Ottawa blues band MonkeyJunk. The band is proud to announce that this album features an electric bass prominently, which was not the case in any of the band’s previous four album. The album is not only, electric but also eclectic. While every song is united under the umbrella of blues and blues rock, each song has a unique essence and emotion. In the first three tracks the listener experiences the emotion of a Jonny Lang ballad, the milieu of a Tinsley Ellis song, and the rockin’ vibe of something straight from the depths Jimmie Vaughan and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Vocalist Steve Marriner bowls over the listener with the sheer power and potency of his voice, such as in the first track “Best Kept Secret,” yet, at the same time caresses the listener with sonorous care, for example, in the soulful “Blue Lights Go Down.” As well, most every song also features Marriner’s powerful harmonica in addition to his strong vocals. The band covers many styles on the album, from the gospel tinged, funky “Fuzzy Poodle” to the strong, throbbing love song “Can’t Call You Baby.” Perhaps most interesting to a traditional blues lover, “Undertaker Blues” is what could only be described as MonkeyJunk’s take on the country blues John Lee Hooker’s songwriting. The song is the perfect coalescence between Marriner’s sharp harp and vocals, Tony D’s twangy guitar, and drummer Matt Sobb’s driving percussion. Monkey Junk entertains with the comical “Gone” and another southern rock-influenced tune, “Time To Roll.” Listeners will swear they hear Derek Trucks on the soulful “Pray For Rain.” “See The Sign” features a Southern/Indie Rock feel accompanied by Sobb’s drumming in tandem with that ever-present harmonica that anyone will come to know well after listening to this album. Time To Roll leaves the listener with a heart full of MonkeyJunk’s sonorous and impassioned blues and great contentment.
– review by E.C. Wenzel

Album Review: Lady Wray – Queen Alone

Queen Alone is the second solo studio album from American R&B singer Nicole Wray, and her first album under the name “Lady Wray”. Eighteen years since her first album, Make It Hot, Wray has a new record company, a new producer, and a new sound. Make It Hot was part R&B and part hip-hop, with heavy drum beats and frequent features by album producer and rapper Missy Elliot. Queen Alone presents a more mature, classic R&B sound that puts the focus on Wray’s powerful vocals.

Most of the songs on Queen Alone are old-school R&B. Simple instrumentals are punctuated by trumpets and background vocals heavily influenced by gospel, a side effect of Wray’s church upbringing. This can be seen in tracks such as “Do It Again”, “Guilty”, and “Make Me Over”, nostalgic tunes about love and loss. As the album progresses, however, the songs begin to bring in elements of other genres. “In Love (Don’t Mess Things Up)” features a folksy instrumental not typically seen in R&B, providing an interesting contrast to Wray’s vocals. “It’s Been A Long Time” is reminiscent of the Jackson 5, bringing in more of a pop vibe. The tracks “Cut Me Loose” and “Underneath My Feet” delve into rock, with heavy guitar and drum beats. Finally, “They Won’t Hang Around” brings back memories of classic Amy Winehouse hits such as “You Know I’m No Good”. With elements of so many different genres, Queen Alone runs the risk of sounding like a collection of single songs rather than an album. However, the R&B undertones of every song, combined with Lady Wray’s powerful vocals, give the album the necessary cohesiveness.

Queen Alone is remarkable different from Lady Wray’s first album. Her new sound emphasizes her incredible voice instead of relying on the heavy backbeat and hip-hop elements of Make It Hot. Wray’s return to a more classic R&B sound suits her well, and is a great listen for anyone looking to reminisce about the old-school days of R&B.

– review by Emma Park

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Album Review: Phern – cool coma

a2678303782_10The brand-new release from Phern, a supergroup composed of underground darlings from the Montreal indie scene, proves once again that the city is a both a breeding ground and a blank canvas for creative ventures big and small. Phern, which consists of members from Moss Lime, Soft Cone, and Sheer Agony (to name a few), has quietly written and produced the tiny EP Pause Clope and a tightly spiraling LP cool coma within the 514 city limits. The group could be dismissed as another cute local band if not for the fact that its members have already weathered the city’s saturated music scene, and thus have been able to create an album that adeptly straddles a label of jangle-pop and experimentalism.

The sound is not unlike The Microphones or early Grizzly Bear at times, and influences of Sheer Agony’s Masterpiece are sprinkled here and there. Within cool coma there exist jangle-pop earworms such as “I Sold The House” and “Pebble,” and a couple Phil Evrum-esque tracks appear in “Flipper Twister” and “Hospital Garden.” The album is presented in the order in which the songs were written and recorded; an honest, casual, stripped-down approach to presenting music. No track on cool coma reaches past the three-minute mark, providing short bursts of tart rhythms and staccato, syncopated beats. Hélène Barbier’s soft drone provides an anchor for the loose drums and wandering, chaotic guitar and synth.

“I Sold The House,” the first track on Pause Clope, starts with the sound of jaunty snares and a liquid electric guitar. It’s a catchy number, and Barbiere’s vocals here are less abrasive here than on other tracks, providing a soft, catchy introduction to Phern. “Excavator,” the first track on cool coma, has a psychedelic element. With fuzzy vocals and slow, fluid layering, the entire track appears to be soaked in sepia. “Pebble” provides a nice walking track to the tune of jangly electric guitar and expert syncopation. Barbiere’s vocals provide a physical and lyrical dissonance to the instrumentals, which are quite reminiscent of Sheer Agony.

“Real Nice Chair” features a lovely bass guitar intro before the electric guitar interrupts without warning; Barbiere’s voice then slinks in and proceeds to hover just below the instrumentals for the remainder of the track. “Crosswalk Talk” features more bass guitar solos and a hypnotic chorus, which repeats “I would recommend that you don’t cross here.” It is at once robotic and evocative, with Barbiere’s high monotone serving as a warning sign.

cool coma simultaneously keeps you on your toes and lulls you into a sense of complacency. The instrumentals come in fits and starts, with heavy syncopation and time signature change, but the overarching sound is very similar throughout the album. There is a gentle abrasiveness to cool coma, with many tracks affecting an endearing subtle dissonance; Phern knows what they are doing, and they do it well. 

Album released: November 25, 2016 (Pause Clope was released October 14, 2016)

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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Album Review: Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat To Earth

 

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Natalie Mering, or better known by her stage name Weyes Blood, released her elegant new LP Front Row Seat To Earth a couple of weeks ago. The New York singer-songwriter’s second album released under Mexican Summer’s record label approaches the listener with tenderness and care through the whole tracklist. The realities of dealing with relationships and celebrating change in attitudes are central themes surrounding Mering’s latest project.

“Diary” is the first track off the LP that starts with a slow piano progression that feels heavenly to the effect of Mering’s beautiful vocals. The atmosphere feels intimate and sparks different notions of what Mering might be experiencing in her life. It’s almost as if she’s singing a personal passage from her own diary, informing the listening audience about how she feels. This sets the tone for the rest of the album which feels extremely personal from one track to the next.

The song “Be Free” is absolutely stunning, it pulls at your heart in the most comforting way possible. The guitar playing feels dreamy, Mering’s vocals towards the later half of the track resonate well against the brass instruments and finishes the song off exquisitely well. “Generation Why” was used as one of the singles for Weyes Blood’s latest record and discusses the idea of our current generation and dealing with change in everyday life. The gentle guitar plucking throughout the song is accompanied by violins that support Mering’s stellar harmonies on the track. At this point the consistency of the album feels satisfying and carries forth similar production within each song proceeding.

“Can’t Go Home” is the following track after “Generation Why” and utilizes a harmonizer for the background vocals, the effect feels like a beautiful outer worldly instrument. “Away Above” has cool synth work seeping its way through light guitar playing and pretty vocals that emulate a sense of sorrow that’s oddly uplifting at the same time. Mering addresses how confusing love can be, what it means to love someone, and how real that feeling can be to someone. It’s a harrowing track that is relatable for anyone facing the dilemma of what it means to have feelings of love resonating within one’s self.

Front Row Seat To Earth is a magnificent accomplishment for an album. Exceptionally touching and forward thinking, the latest LP from the New York songstress is one that should not be overlooked. Pick up this record and give yourself the pleasure of pulling up a front row seat to the experience. You’re going to want to be seated for the initial playthrough.

– Review by Michael Eidelson

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Album Review: Kadhja Bonet – The Visitor

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Kadhja Bonet is definitely a singular artist. Her entire album can be described as a compilation of snapshots, scenes that each tell their own stories. Her style can be described as… well, let me quote NPR here: “a cinematic and folky kind of psychedelic soul music impossible to pin down.”  I cannot disagree.

My experience listening to “The Visitor”? I inserted the album into the CD player and distracted myself on the computer while the album was loading. But my attention was captured by Kadhja Bonet as soon as the first track, “Earth Birth,” began playing. It.is.golden. You feel as though you are walking through a sci-fi movie, transported somewhere in space and discovering a whole new universe. But soon enough, this extraterrestrial space is closed and you are brought into a solitary place in which you long for your “Honeycomb.” Does the move from extraterrestrial to melancholy seem slightly drastic? Surprisingly not. Kadhja Bonet masterfully ends each track in suspense, making the listener eagerly wait for the next song and therefore willingly accept whatever change in beat and atmosphere it comes with.

Throughout the entire album, Bonet expertly accompanies her listeners from space to space, scene to scene, story to story. Each track is artfully crafted, for not only is she gifted with the ability to generate beautiful arrangements of strings and synthetics, but she also demonstrates a particularly soothing low voice. This was especially apparent in “Portrait of Tracy” with its combination of strings, percussion, and gospel-inspired vocals. This short track, only 2:16 in length, ends with a heavenly acapella section which sounded curiously like angels – or at least what I imagine angels would sound like.

Many, if not all, artists experiment in their work. Kadhja Bonet embraces this tactic fully, and her creative use of sounds, voices, and arrangements is definitely worthy of praise. All her songs are very pleasing to listen to, yet they also have a little something that catches you by surprise and makes you want to listen for more. During the entire duration of the album, you are continuously pulled in because each song tells its own story and paints its own scene in which you, the listener, can picture yourself as a character.

– Review by Se Jeong Park

 

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Album Review: American Football (LP2)

AF_2016_LP_Jacket_PRINT.inddYou might be under the assumption that after seventeen years, certain aspects of a band would have changed so fundamentally that the sound is no longer prevalent – or in some cases, even relevant – in this day and age. With the much anticipated release of emo darling American Football’s second self-titled LP, colloquially known as LP2, the question on anyone’s mind is: how could these low-fi leaders of the Midwest emo scene, now approaching middle-age, deliver the same je ne sais quois melancholia reflected in the average twentysomething?

Overall, our fears have been assuaged. American Football’s lead singer Mike Kinsella has taken the care to keep the overall theme of the band crystallized in time, with messages successfully delivering the old emo nostalgia they so masterfully perfected at the turn of the millennium. Kinsella’s lyrics remain fatalistic in meaning and poetic in delivery, and are peppered with ruminations on the passage of time. The instrumental accompaniments are still as ambient and intricate as they were nearly two decades ago, albeit more produced and expanded with the help a full back-up band. American Football remains a fan of discordant time signatures, with guitar riffs and drum sets cleverly syncopated in rhythmic harmony to create a constant, moving ebb and flow underneath Kinsella’s vocals. 

Kinsella’s voice has aged like a good oak table, becoming more weathered and smooth as the years have passed. It remains a sturdy and present force amidst the swirling guitar, bass, and drums. However, his vocals stand at the forefront of tracks as compared to the last album, where he had a tendency to submerge himself in the instrumentals and resurface for clarity and emphasis. You won’t find any tracks along the lines of LP1’s “Honestly?” here; Kinsella has made the full transition into “frontman” after years performing as his solo act, Owen. 

The album begins quietly with “Where Are We Now?,” as if waking from a dream; chime-like electric guitar pickings precede Kinsella’s quiet “Where are we now?”. It is a subtle nod to the years that have passed since he last assumed the American Football mantle, and the song itself feels like shrugging on an old, well-loved jacket. American Football plays around with syncopation in “My Instincts Are The Enemy,” with choppy guitar and drum melodies acting as an introduction for Kinsella’s vocals, which alternate between his signature plaintive cry with soft falsetto. “I’ve Been Lost For So Long,” the first single released by the band, is a bleeding-heart track begging to be performed in front of an audience. It’s a new switch compared to the “old” American Football; most tracks on LP1 are contemplative and wandering, while this tightly produced track expertly fields a strong drum beat amongst layered guitar arpeggios. The syncopation returns for emphasis on the chorus. “Give Me The Gun” is an active track that also strays from the meandering ways of yore, focusing instead on projecting an atmosphere of constant fluid movement; guitars and drums are heavily layered.

The album art from American Football’s LP1 features the plain exterior of a lit house at night, providing an accurate air of isolation and late-night contemplation. Compare the LP2 album art, which features not the outside but the inside of a nameless house, with the viewer’s vantage point set on an open door bathed in a morning glow. The subtle contrast provides a glaring thematic message: the outside façade may have not changed much, but the core entity now lends an entirely different view, and a hopeful one at that. While this may be the last we hear from American Football for the foreseeable future, the impact that these lost boys – now grown –  have had on countless other lost listeners will continue to stand on solid foundations.

Album released: October 21, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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Album Review: 22, A Million – Bon Iver

JV1In Bon Iver’s latest release, 22, A Million, Justin Vernon is inviting you inside his head. However, the difference of five years has changed many a thing for Vernon, including the way he approaches music. The inward, contemplative soul-searching of For Emma, Forever Ago and Bon Iver has been shed for an extrospective, existential outlook; Vernon is examining human existence through the lens of personal experiences. He has described the album title as such: the 22 stands for him, as “the number’s recurrence in his life has become a meaningful pattern through encounter and recognition.” The “a million” represents the rest of humanity, and “everything outside ones’ self that makes you who you are.” He speaks of searching for self-understanding through love and life, and the sentiment is truly reflected through his music.

22, A Million is by far the most produced, and yet starkly bare, album put out by Bon Iver. Vernon’s interest with vocal and instrumental manipulation has been fully realized here with his extensive use of the Messina (a software-hardware amalgamation birthed by Vernon and his engineer, Chris Messina) and the OP-1. Vernon also takes the chance to heavily feature the saxophone, aided by the saxophone collective Sad Sax of Shit. Vernon’s voice is, at times, barely recognizable; he has left the corporeal body presented in For Emma and fully immersed himself in the music, rising up from under the surface occasionally to voice his inner thoughts. Thus, the listener is compelled to actively listen to the lyrics, flawlessly executed but at times submerged under the intense instrumental manipulations.

The tracks are hypnotizing, almost psychedelically so at times; for many, it is easy to get lost in the swirling, half-formed melodies and jagged interludes. The lyrics fluctuate from half-lucid utterances and cryptic messages (“22 (OVER S∞∞N)”) to bold statements and ragged pleas, almost shouted by Vernon in later tracks. More interesting is Vernon’s curious fascination with symbols and numbers that peppers the track titles. An active listener would be in want of a guidebook to follow the mysterious content Vernon has included in 22, A Million, or would need to reconcile the fact that we may never fully understand the methods behind the madness. 

22, A Million opens with “22 (OVER S∞∞N),” introduced by a ghostly monotone note and Vernon’s auto-tuned “It might be over soon,” played back on a distorted loop. Lush, layered melodies fade in and out of the track, giving it a decisive ebb and flow. Vernon has sampled Mahalia Jackson’s live version of “How I Got Over” at various points along with the saxophone. (If you’re feeling a slight “Ultralight Beam” vibe here, you’re not alone.) “33 ‘GOD'” features a plaintive, simple piano melody throughout, though by the end of the track it is almost indiscernible. Vernon is fond of the echo on this track; his own vocals are followed by a distorted chorus, and high-sung melodies swirl around a heavy, dark beat, providing an effective counter-balance. 

“29 #Strafford APTS” is a solitary return to an acoustic guitar; evidently Vernon cannot fully deny his roots. The track is resonant and familiar, with cryptically poetic lyrics hiding a message of lost love in plain sight. The instrumental manipulation has been stripped away, providing only a faint echo of reverb for punctuation. Vernon’s signature falsetto is haunting here, used sparingly for emphasis on repeated words such as “paramind” and “canonize.” “8 (circle)” begins with a dissonant, whimpering saxophone that fades into a lush synth with an gentle underlaid beat. Vernon’s voice is unadorned by any falsetto or manipulation here, and his lyrics resonate honestly. The saxophone fades in again, confident and slow this time as the instrumentals start to build upon one another and crescendo; Vernon’s voice takes on a new urgency. The track is positively hymnal in nature, and the use of rounds in the last verse only underscores this aspect.

22, A Million is, at first glance, an album for the ear and the brain, not an album for the heart. Yet with every take, the lyrics resonate and permeate; the album itself is forming as you listen. A word to the wise: before dismissing this album on the assumption that Vernon has forgotten his old ways, let yourself fall in and explore the lush musical landscape he has so painstakingly created for himself. Vernon may have released the preconceived notion of traditional “song-writing,” but by no means has he abandoned his need to communicate through song.

Album released: September 30, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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Album Review: I Had A Dream That You Were Mine – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam

imgresLet’s do an exercise: imagine that you’re at your favorite local joint and in a dusty corner stands a somewhat saturnine singer, crying into a standing mic while a man in the shadows accompanies him with an old piano and soft backup vocals. Now, imagine that the singer is former Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser and the genius on the piano is ex-Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij.

If you’re excited by this scenario, then you’ll be happy to know that these two indie rock masterminds have teamed up for a full album, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine. Batmanglij (known simply as Rostam professionally ) and Leithauser met and collaborated in 2014 for Leithauser’s first solo project, the Sinatra-inspired Black Hours. They soon formed a friendship over shared origins – both originally hail from Washington D.C – and a mutual sense of respect and admiration.

The album masterfully combines Leithauser’s rough-and-ready bad boy howl with Rostam’s smooth production and international influence; a hint of Afro-pop influences, similar to those that carried VW’s first album, are noticeable in the background of certain tracks. The instrumentals follow a vintage sound throughout, where the doo-wops and the continual plink of a piano are accompanied by sparse drums and subtle horns.

The album begins with “A 1000 Times,” which sneaks the album title into the chorus. The track is a good litmus test for what is yet to come, but is admittedly one of the less imaginative tracks in the collection. “Rough Going (I Don’t Let Up),” otherwise known as “that track with the doo-wops,” is a melange of sounds and musical genres. A bass beat reminiscent of a barnyard boogie underlays Rostam’s polite background vocals, with Leithauser’s ragged howl at the forefront of the track.

On “You Ain’t That Young Kid” Leithauser speak-sings, painting an intimate picture of a man nursing a broken heart; the lyrics here are deliciously heavy and human. Clever tempo changes keep the track from feeling cut off. The first part features harmonica and plucked electric guitar, which then crescendos to feature an organ-like instrument and a slowed tempo; Rostam’s signature arpeggios litter the bridge as a powerful beat almost overpowers Leithauser’s vocals. The last tempo change returns the track to a more even-tempered, reflective place, featuring Leithauser’s vocals once again.

“The Bride’s Dad” is the penultimate track, beginning with a wistful piano accompaniment and harmonies between the two artists; Leithauser’s timbre falls to his comfortable gravelly yell, while Rostam remains in the stratosphere. The track climaxes with a sudden crescendo, introducing thumping drums, hand clapping, and more forceful piano. The addition of the well-known synthetic choir accompaniment provides a moving finish. While the track is short, barely cutting off at two minutes, it is a powerful one.

I Had A Dream That You Were Mine centers around the general theme of loss, but the music disguises the darker lyrics well. The tracks remain musically diverse: at times there is a raw and uncut feel to tracks, loose drums and lyrics slung with a casual “je ne sais quoi” attitude that flirts with the sadboy mentality – a trademark of the Walkmen. At other times, Rostam’s prowess as a producer and his influence as a member of Vampire Weekend shine through, creating musical gems that sparkle through underneath Leithauser’s dusty vocals and soulful lyrics. 

Album released: September 23, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam