The LA streets zoom by as the camera flits through famous faces laughing, dancing, or just watching the world go by. The video for ‘From the Back of a Cab’, the latest single from Vampire Weekend producer and founding member Rostam’s road-trip inspired album, ‘Changephobia’, is a clever – and very literal – way to showcase some of the many stars he’s has worked with: Charlie XCX and Haim, among others.
Genre-wise, the album itself is less on the nose. Some songs are closer to traditional indie rock or electronica, whereas others are filled with swooping baritone saxophone solos, adding an element of jazz that runs throughout the record. And its message is admirable – Rostam has said of the album: “This collection of songs is not celebrating a fear of change. Rather, it’s the opposite. It’s about who we are capable of becoming if we recognize these fears in ourselves and rise above them.”
Rostam’s talent as a producer is unquestionable, but when it comes to making his own music, he’s sometimes fared less well. Although his first album, 2017’s ‘Half-Light’, was generally praised, it faced criticism for being overly complex and layered. The multi-talented musician’s downfall is sometimes that he wraps melodies in so many layers that it barely has a chance to breathe.
There are songs on ‘Changephobia’ that follow this pattern. On ‘Kinney’, the frantic rhythms threaten to overwhelm the lyrics and melody completely, leaving the listener straining to hear what Rostam is singing. Ironically, ‘To Communicate’ faces the same issue, although the song becomes more cohesive towards the end as it tails off into a long instrumental section.
However, these tracks are in the minority – the album is cohesive despite an experimental and genre-defying sound. Rostam’s calm vocal delivery can feel uncomfortably intimate, particularly on the final track, ‘Starlight’, though the simplicity of the chorus finally allows Rostam’s gentle voice to shine through.
Fans of Vampire Weekend will find traces of the band’s distinctive art pop sound throughout the album, particularly in the first track ‘These Kids We Knew’. The nostalgic vibe and experimental rhythms are similar to his bands classics, such as 2013’s ‘Unbelievers’, but with Rostam’s own distinctive sound threaded throughout.
It’s hard in the increasingly saturated music world to make an album that stands out. Whatever the flaws in some elements of ‘Changephobia’, Rostam can be proud of creating an album that showcases his talent as a producer and is truly unique.
Release date: June 4
Record label: Matsor Projects