Two kings of the indie dancefloor unite for a warm, timeless take on 20th century pop and rock
Now here are two people who know how to fill a sticky indie disco dancefloor. On one side there’s Hamilton Leithauser, frontman with New York group The Walkmen (on ‘indefinite hiatus’ since November 2013), and the band responsible for mid-noughties cult classic ‘The Rat’.
On the other, Rostam Batmanglij; multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and sonic architect for Brooklyn’s [a]Vampire Weekend[/a], until he departed at the beginning of this year to concentrate on his own stuff, namely brainy pop singles and production for the likes of Charli XCX, Santigold and [a]Frank Ocean[/a].
This, their debut album, is an authentic union. The pair formed a friendship after their bands appeared on the same bill in 2008. In the gaps between tours they’d write together, often in Rostam’s teenage bedroom at his family home in Washington DC, where his father would call up the stairs asking about the noise affectionately, both their dads appear in the video for lead single ‘A 1000 Times’).
And while there are flecks of both their previous bands here, it’s much more than just a straightforward hybrid. Rostam’s ambition was to take Hamilton’s distinctive, raw voice and set it in entirely new scenery. You may have heard the swoony, rueful, piano-led ‘A 1000 Times’. If you haven’t – and if there’s any justice in the world – you’ll probably hear it played at the end of the next wedding you attend. It’s sad but forceful, and has all the trappings of a timeless classic. ‘Sick As A Dog’ is a shuffling, mournful, tender glam-rock song that often just pairs Hamilton’s croon with roomy drums with thrilling simplicity. The elegant Spanish folk of ‘In A Black Out’ and steel-guitar-driven ‘Peaceful Morning’, too, place Hamilton’s rustic voice squarely at the centre. Meanwhile, ‘Rough Going (I Won’t Let Up)’ is the closest we come to a Vampire Weekend song, with piano-bar riff, doo-wop harmonies and finger clicks.
It may tail off towards the close, but genuine warmth emanates throughout. A partnership that’s charged with ideas, this feels like a collaboration that’s only just getting going.
Record label: Glassnote
Release date: 23 Sep, 2016