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.
I Had A Dream That You Were Mine bookends with its best two tracks. “A 1000 Times” catapults you into the best the record has to offer. The quiet to loud dynamics, the big chorus, stuffed full of hooks, it sounds like your favorite Walkmen track, and that voice. Hamilton’s voice sounds like a sailboat, cruising on the lake of your mind. Every so often he catches a gust of wind and takes off. The volume changes are so vigorous and organic; and when he really picks up steam, it never sounds like he is trying to get intense, it sounds like he already is. The final track “1959” features Angel Deradoorian, tickling piano and the sweetest falsetto since A Moon Shaped Pool. When Deradoorian does begin singing, its hard to tell if we are in a Dirty Projectors b-side or not, in the best possible way.
In between are high and low points, “In a Black Out” sounds so much like a Leonard Cohen song it must be intentional. And it’s better than any song Leonard has written in 40 years. “Peaceful Morning” has a Sufjan banjo and a Sufjan bridge and Sufjan production but it still somehow carries the vibe of the record. The production is superb, crisp drums that pop, keys that sparkle and tones that you recognize from Rostam’s other production. The 50’s doo wop on “Rough Going” though stands out like a sore thumb. It seems like a fun experiment, but is ultimately the records weakest track. “You Ain’t That Young Kid” is a Bob Dylan idea with Tom Petty vocals and no place to land.
In an interview, the duo describes writing songs in their native DC, in Rostam’s childhood bedroom. The feel of the record matches the writing space. Like a high school band trying stuff for fun, mixing genres because why not? Imagining a new Vampire Weekend record without Rostam is awful. Maybe Ezra can go the solo route and they can headline Coachella 2021 with a new record and a new purpose? Pushing through without this talent would be a mistake without an A-list producer like Dave Fridmann or even Flood. Can you imagine a Flood produced Vampire Weekend record? Yeah, you’re right, maybe it would be awful.
What better indie rock duo could we get than this? I can’t imagine Sufjan collaborating with anyone and Kevin Barnes is getting old. Jeff Mangum and Doug Martsch? Ira Kaplan and Robert Pollard? Win Butler and Bradford Cox? I don’t know if any of those would even work honestly. But this record does. When Hamilton and Rostam record together they use the same voice. Listen and you will hear it. B