As a solo artist, Hamilton Leithauser takes the elements that made his band the Walkmen so special -- literate songwriting, a nostalgic but not navel-gazing sound, and a voice that sounds equally natural whether crooning or wailing -- in more personal directions. On 2014's Black Hours, he updated the torchy sounds of '50s and '60s vocal pop; with 2016's I Had a Dream That You Were Mine, he fused vintage rock and soul and 21st century indie in otherworldly ways; and on 2020's The Loves of Your Life, he animated his memoirist songwriting with vibrant, urgent music. When the Walkmen went on hiatus following 2011's Heaven, Leithauser embarked on his solo career. He assembled a crack team of supporting musicians to work on his new material, including Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij, Fleet Foxes' Morgan Henderson, the Shins' Richard Swift, Dirty Projectors' Amber Coffman, and his Walkmen bandmate Paul Maroon. Recorded at Los Angeles' Vox Studios, Leithauser's debut album, Black Hours -- which was inspired by Frank Sinatra's music and prefaced by the single "Alexandra" -- was released in May 2014. In 2015, Leithauser and Maroon issued Dear God, a vinyl-only collection of stripped-down covers and originals that they followed with I Could Have Sworn, an EP for 2016's Record Store Day. Leithauser re-teamed with Batmanglij for 2016's I Had a Dream That You Were Mine. Recorded at Batmanglij's home studio in Los Angeles, the pair borrowed the best of their previous bands as well as '50s and '60s rock and soul with postmodern abandon. On April 2020's lively yet intimate The Loves of Your Life, Leithauser took on all of the writing, producing, and recording duties.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 23, 2016 | Glassnote Entertainment Group LLC
Pairing members of two of the most celebrated indie bands of the 2000s and 2010s, Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam's I Had a Dream That You Were Mine was a collaboration long in the making. The duo initially met in the late 2000s when Vampire Weekend opened for the Walkmen, and though Rostam worked on some of Leithauser's solo debut, Black Hours, it's easy to hear why they opted to share the billing this time around. Rostam brings as much of his aesthetic to these songs as Leithauser does, and it's possible to hear bits of Vampire Weekend's precise pop and surprising flourishes as well as the Walkmen's rousing and rollicking sides on each track. Both are well represented by I Had a Dream's opening and closing songs, which telegraph their yearning with the twinkling pianos that were a Walkmen staple: "A 1000 Times" uses them to welcome new love, while "1959" -- which also features Angel Deradoorian's otherworldly vocals -- uses them to evoke an old one. There's an almost surreal quality to the album's arrangements that adds to its feeling of being surrounded, and transported, by dreams and memories: as it moves from banjos to rolling pianos, "Peaceful Morning" sounds like it begins in the countryside and ends in a bar; similarly, the poignant sketch "The Bride's Dad" boasts a melody that could be a hymn or a drinking song and builds to almost comic grandeur. Both Vampire Weekend and the Walkmen were masters of creative nostalgia, and Leithauser and Rostam take their flair for reimagining classic sounds with postmodern glee to new levels on I Had a Dream That You Were Mine. The pair uses hints of Dylan's The Basement Tapes, Harry Nilsson (in hindsight, the Walkmen's cover of his album Pussy Cats ended up being a pivotal moment in their career), and doo wop in audacious and inspired ways. The "sha-dooby" backing vocals that pepper "Rough Going" could easily sound corny, yet they're as charming here as the ghostly nod to the Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes for You" is on "When the Truth Is...." This juxtaposition of old and new feels much more natural than it did on Black Hours, and taps into Leithauser's emotive powers fully. There's something moving about how he repeats "I use the same voice I always have" on "Sick as a Dog," a feeling that's echoed on "In a Black Out," a song Leithauser originally wrote for the Walkmen but blossoms on I Had a Dream's more intimate approach. It would be easy to say that I Had a Dream That You Were Mine rivals Rostam and Leithauser's past work, but it's better to say that it's the beginning of a great partnership. © Heather Phares /TiVo