Former Vampire Weekend mate, Rostam Batmanglij, or Rostam, is a first generation Iranian immigrant who openly talks about his sexual orientation on his latest release, Half Light . If that’s not enough to get you to listen to his debut solo album, let it be known that he produced “Ivy” for Frank Ocean’s scintillating 2016 release Blonde, Solange’s “F.U.B.U.” from the pristine A Seat at the Table (2016) and songs for pop megastars Charli XCX and Carly Rae Jepsen.
It is safe to say that Rostam – one of the first, and quite frankly, one of the only persons of color to break into the overtly white genre of Indie Rock – has a lot of experience in producing silky smooth, yet breathtakingly grand tracks. Rostam clearly portrays these influences on his first foray into commercial albums by presenting a Indie “sugar” pop album that justifies the producer’s influence on the Indie landscape in the last decade.
Half Light’s production sounds reminiscent of Rostam’s work with Vampire Weekend that heavily borrows sounds from his native roots. Rostam plays around with Middle Eastern flourishes and weaves them perfectly with washed-out guitars and even a complex 12-string acoustic guitar pattern on the song “Wood” that innovatively imitates music from the Persian society.
Even though the album could belong on the Vampire Weekend discography, sonically-speaking, what sets the overall sound apart from past Vampire Weekend’s works is the 808-style, autotuned vocals presented. Rostam presents versatility with washed up vocals that practically sound mumbled. If one were to decipher what Rostam was saying, one would realize that Rostam abstractly talks about topics ranging from one-sided or lost love (“Bike Dream”) to living in America ran by Donald Trump (“When”). Undoubtedly, Rostam was a man hard at work. Taking six years to finish some songs, the album is mesmerising from the harpsichord opening on ‘Sumer’, a ballad about depression, to the beautiful reprise of “Don’t Let It Get To You.”, a motivational tune.
Rostam never uses clear phrases or concrete expositions, but rather he uses abstract phrases to let the listeners imagine this poetic world where the protagonists of Rostam’s stories live. Rostam invites the listener into this slow-moving, motivational and self-critical world where instead of talking directly to the listener, Rostom merely guides the listener into weaving their own imaginative reality.