Rostam Batmanglij has come a long, long way from his Vampire Weekend days. The former member of the band we all loved in college (tell me you don't know the words to "A-Punk" and I'll know you're a liar) split with Vampire Weekend in early 2016 and, since then, we've been waiting impatiently for his debut solo album. The wait is now over and, with today's release of Half-Light, we're ready to reintroduce ourselves to Batmanglij's eclectic sound.
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The 15-track album, released under the name Rostam, is a testament to his ear for unknown sounds. Like Vampire Weekend's flirtations with West African guitar licks, he's filled his album with 13th-century English choral songs, Persian melodies and Brazilian batucada drums. While his previous single about a boy breaking his heart, "Gravity Don't Pull Me," doesn't make an appearance, the album is stuffed with a collage of emotional tracks about love and denial. One particular track, "Bike Dream," is a sort of queer Trojan horse. As Batmanglij described to his brother Zal on OUT:
"There's a lyric in the chorus, 'Two boys: one to love you sweetly, one does so discreetly.' What I loved when I wrote that was that it felt like you could interpret it as actually being about one person who's being asked to be two different people. I think that's something we as queer people, Middle Eastern people, and children of immigrants in America have experienced a lot. We're seeing those kind of politics play out... But I can't help but be optimistic."
Rostam offers a globe-hopping, complex sound that he effortlessly sings over in an arresting, soothing display of musical genius. It's also now our go-to album for lying in bed stoned out of our minds while the weather lowers to a chill, so there's that. Listen to it in full, below.