Essential New Music: Rostam’s “Half Light”

Rostam Batmanglij is substantially responsible for shaping the sound and music of Vampire Weekend, so it’s unsurprising—probably inevitable—that the producer/multi-instrumentalist’s solo debut would share some hallmarks with his former band: borrowings from Western classical music (strings and harpsichords, playing those signature Alberti bass figures) and other international traditions (the tabla beats and Persian tunings on Bollywood baroque fantasia “Wood”); sampling/quoting as a compositional tool (from the Specials to “Simple Gifts” to Paul Simon’s Brazilian samba drums). Nor is Rostam’s gently sleepy vocal delivery worlds away from Ezra Koenig’s amiable tenor. But he’s working with a broader palette here (incorporating, for instance, skittering electro beats akin to his side project Discovery), pursuing his distinctively colorful sonic exploration more for its own sake than as a means of embellishing indie-pop songs, per se, even if most of Half-Light approximately fits that bill. It’s less an emphatic, assertive statement than a patchwork scrapbook of disparate moods and tunes (some dating back to 2011) that, taken as a whole, feels not unpleasantly unfinished, somewhat hazy and dreamlike (a recurring lyrical theme) and understatedly charismatic.

K. Ross Hoffman