Since leaving Vampire Weekend last year, producer-songwriter extraordinaire Rostam Batmanglij has been dipping his finger in a number of musical pies, collaborating with the likes of Frank Ocean and Carly Rae Jepsen. It's clear now, however, with the release of his first solo effort Half-Light, that Rostam saved his best ideas for himself.
Sonically, Half-Light is a spiritual successor to 2013's Modern Vampires of the City. Rostam's signature harpsichord is elegantly at play, along with very 808s-style auto-tuned vocals and washed out acoustic guitars. Yet even with all of these audible trademarks, many that carry over from his old band, Half-Light somehow keeps things not only fresh but intensely enjoyable.
If Rostam's range wasn't obvious from composition alone, the album's varied subject matter should clear any doubt. On "When," the singer paints a vivid and inspiring picture of a political protest in America. Elsewhere, Rostam's fragile vocals coupled with lyrics of heartbreak and learnedness yield love songs like "Warning Intruders," a sensual pop ballad that could give radio stars like Zayn a run for their money.
The only thing close to a noteworthy complaint about Half-Light is the overreliance on what I'll dub "Rostam grin-singing." Listen closely and you can almost hear the singer's smile permeating every track. Think of it like the musical equivalent of TV host Jimmy Fallon's 'this-is-too-cool!' laugh, something that feels a tad forced and self-indulgent. Although noteworthy, it's barely a problem, as even upon identifying it, Rostam's joyful giddiness is just too endearing to hate on.
All in all, Half-Light makes it apparent just how much of what was captivating about Vampire Weekend came from Batmanglij, solidifying the newly independent musician as a collaborator artists from multiple genres should — and do — want to work with. (Nonesuch)