Published Sep 23, 2016It may not have been the most surprising post-Walkmen turn (bassist/organist Walter Martin's children's album We're All Young Together takes the prize on that one), but Black Hours, the solo debut from Hamilton Leithauser, marked a drastic change for the former frontman. No longer a gritty-voiced brawler at the back of the bar, Black Hours found him playing the barroom crooner, with inspiration drawn from Frank Sinatra and the American Songbook. For his latest release, Leithauser has teamed up with Black Hours' secret weapon, former Vampire Weekend instrumentalist-producer Rostam Batmanglij, for an album-long teamup that travels through time and genre, including harmonica folk, country-rock and doo-wop.
Each song on I Had a Dream That You Were Mine holds its own and covers unique ground within the album as a whole, but remains cohesive thanks to its broad narrative of reconciliation, unrequited love and persevering in the face of failure. No matter how poised Leithauser sounds as the slick crooner, he's at his best when unhinged and hollering, offering that same ragged charm as he did with the Walkmen, no matter how different the instrumentals may be. His repeatedly ragged, shouted vocals teeter between exuberance and exhaustion in these moments, such as the climaxes of "Sick as a Dog" and "Peaceful Morning."
While Hamilton's voice dominates the record, Rostam's touch is unmistakable, with choral background vocals and a vast array of keyboard textures brought straight from his work with Vampire Weekend. But much like how Rostam's previous partnership (Discovery, with Ra Ra Riot's Wes Miles) eschewed both members' baroque leanings for glitchy, electronic pop, Hamilton + Rostam synthesizes two distinct musicians for a sound that's ultimately greater than the sum of its parts. (Glassnote)