At this particular point in time, it’s getting very hard for me to think about anything other than the election we’re currently sitting on the precipice of, and the possible terrible ramifications we could be looking at. I mean, sure there was that Cubs World Series victory that just happened, which was nice and all, but doesn’t it on some level feel like an inevitable sign of the apocalypse? I know, that’s being a bit over-dramatic. Since clearly it was just a nice thing that happened to a long-suffering baseball team that by no other reason than bad luck had to wait 108 years to see their bad luck dissipate amongst the drunken roars of Chicagoans the world over. Either way, it seems secondary to whatever the hell will happen on Tuesday, and in a way most of what has happened in this unrelentingly long year (pop culture included) seems secondary to whatever fate awaits us on Tuesday (trust me, this’ll become an album review eventually).
So hopefully, very hopefully, on Wednesday, we can finally begin to look back on this year with some sense of normalcy, and see that yeah, there was some horrible crap to come out of 2016, but maybe we can look towards the future with some sense of hope. I guess I’m talking about the kind of hope we saw back in 2008, on that Wednesday after Obama took the presidency and it seemed like America could truly be a better place (which it kind of technically was, but also not really). And listening to an album like Hamilton Leithauser’s latest, it’s hard not to be reminded of the early part of the Obama administration, as it marks a collaboration between two artists whose bands were at their peak in the late ’00s/early ’10s, when Obamtimism was at its peak.
I guess another thing that was remarkable about Hamilton Leithauser’s The Walkmen and Rostam Batmanglij’s Vampire Weekend, is they were both the rare indie bands that were able to age gracefully. Because sure, The Walkmen’s Bows + Arrows and Vampire Weekend’s debut were no doubt ’00s indie classics that reeked of the kind of bratty confidence that could only come from young men in their 20s. But I think you could make a case that these bands’ “mature” albums — 2010’s Lisbon and 2013’s Modern Vampires of The City — were the best things that they ever put out.
So perhaps it only makes sense that these two New Yorkers would end up collaborating in 2016, freed from the constraints of their respective bands, and record an album that has an heir of maturity and calm, in a year that’s been anything but. While at the same time, I Had A Dream retains that vocal-straining recklessness that has always made Leithauser such a thrilling singer to listen to, while Rostam adds a sound that has all of the pristine flourishes of a very classic-sounding pop record. Also, much like any Walkmen record, the album does feature one absolutely perfect single with “A 1000 Times”. It quickly became one of my favorite tracks of 2016, and I hope when I listen back to it in the future, the song’s doe-eyed romantic optimism will remind me that, hey, 2016 didn’t turn out so bad after all.
Favorite Tracks: “A 1000 Times”, “You Ain’t That Young Kid”, “1959”