Cars play an important role on the second solo album from Rostam Batmanglij, the instrumentalist/producer who gave his former band Vampire Weekend its globe-hopping charm. It makes sense, given the meaning of the made-up title: “Transphobia, biphobia, homophobia—these words hold a weight of threat, and it occurred to me that ... the fears they describe are rooted in a fear of change," Rostam has said. It's almost like as if this record is a map for getting to a new, more open way of thinking, being, living. "Don't wanna be pretty like a girl/ I think I'm pretty much your boy," he sings on the perky 4Runner, an ode to road tripping and finding cooperation in love.
The manic rhythm and big-shouldered baritone sax is an interesting new signature for Rostam after a long embrace of cello and harpsichord. The track Kinney is a rousing push-and-pull against the somnambulistic lyrics: "In your car I fall asleep/ pass out in the front seat/ on the pavement I was half alive/ half ocean, half sky/ half shore, half tide." From the Back of a Cab is glitchy and beautiful. Unfold You features again that baritone sax with a breathy and sexy style that is practically R&B. The hand drums of Bio18 are meditative and the pretty, nostalgic Starlight feels like a modern re-casting of Chet Baker.
Changephobia also sometimes feels as if it's not of this world. These Kids We Knew starts off sounding underwater, comes more clearly into focus, then continues to bob in and out. Written in a "fever-dream state" while recovering from COVID, the song is about Gen-Z putting older generations on trial for not caring enough about global warming and the problems they piled on. Next Thing is like a collision of two worlds: It warps abruptly from bouncy NYC jazz pop, with Rostam about to break into knowing laughter ("What makes you think you're any better/ 'Cause you're not/ take a seat and a slot/ on the bus heading West"), into a languid Pacific dream: "The next thing I knew I was in California / It didn't feel strange at all/ Everybody said/ 'I've got to warn you, you won't be back next fall.'" Changephobia is an album that emulates the feeling of Rostam picking you up in his car and taking you on a journey through his musical musings.