By: Anna Rahkonen
Half-Light is the debut album from Vampire Weekend alum, Rostam Batmanglij. Rostam pioneered most of the musical direction during his time with Vampire Weekend, adding pop and R&B qualities that shook up the band’s genre and musical barriers. Post Vampire Weekend, Rostam offered his pop talents to artists such as Solange, Haim, Santigold, Charli XCX, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Frank Ocean. Fast forward to 2017, and Half-Light fully delivers what we were only offered glimpses of during his tenure with Vampire Weekend and his collaborations with other artists in the mainstream and underground. It is clear that he harbors a knack for creating innovative, smart, and unexpected postmodern pop music.
Rostam artfully showcases his ability to create catchy pop tracks while masterfully blending auto-tune, strings, and Middle Eastern influenced touches and drum beats. Rostam, who is of Iranian descent, truly shines when he is adding such embellishments to his songs that are personally connected to him. The track “Wood”, for example, employs the sitar and a rhythmic South Asian drum beat. Alternatively, many other tracks employ a heavily R&B influenced, and even occasionally trap influenced, beat.
Rostam’s vocal abilities, which have been seldom been on center display, are understandably muted and subtle. His voice offers a soft, comforting quality to the tracks that paints an ambient, even ethereal, atmosphere that delicately carries the listener through the album. But that isn’t to say that his vocal ability cannot deliver when it needs to. On the track “Rudy,” he boasts a few powerful, almost angry lines that effectively embellish the mood of the story that the track tells. Alternatively, on the track “Warning Intruders,” he carefully treads through the song with long, winding, and almost Bon Iver-esque auto-tuned lines that have a trance-like quality.
While Half-Light is not a perfect album, it is a wonderful collection of the artistry that has been a constant work-in-progress during a career spanning over ten years. One can only hope that Rostam continues to lend his talents to more artists of many varieties in the coming years. It is clear that he is an unusual and exciting force to be reckoned with not only in pop music, but in the vast majority of mainstream and indie music as well.