Hamilton Leithauser returns with his second post-Walkmen album, I Had a Dream That You Were Mine, with Rostam Batmanglij (ex Vampire Weekend) providing the backing.
I can listen to Hamilton Leithauser carouse me all night long. I’m not even sure why. It’s certainly not the most mellifluous vocal in alternative rock. In fact he sounds like a wailing drunkard whose just punched his hand through a plate glass window.
Perhaps that’s exactly it. Leithauser has a voice that sounds like it’s lived a 1,000 lifetimes over already. It’s timeless, embattled, heroic. Not for everyone, sure, but it lent itself perfectly to the abrasive early days of The Walkmen.
But while The Walkmen have grown older, started families and gone their separate ways, their lead vocalist remains stood on stage behind a 50’s style chrome microphone. With a bow-tie rakishly undone, Leithauser unburdens his soul to anyone down on their luck enough to stumble into this particular dive-bar full of broken souls
And that’s exactly we find Leithauser now. Delivering torch-songs doused in melancholy; serenading those whose lives have been tumultuous at best. But Christ he’s never beaten-down. There’s a fire raging in that rib-cage of his, unpredictably swinging open and letting out tremendous caterwauls of emotion, hot enough to add ‘removal of eyebrows’ to the audience’s list of woes.
Happily, Leithauser has brought some friends along for company. Mainly Ex-Vampire Weekend composer & songwriter Rostam Batmanglij, who also collaborated with Leithauser on his equally wonderful debut album Black Hours. Here, Rostam provides a fitting backdrop for Leithauser, delivering laconic pianos, mid-paced drums, and a range of production styles that inflect each track with its own specific character. Ranging from doo-wop to stomping blues-rock, to liquor-soaked recrimination.
On the lullaby-esque ‘1959’, former Dirty Projectors bassist Angel Deradoorian delivers the line, “one day I’ll start to listen” and suddenly the album transcends the nicotin-stained walls of the pitiless gin-joint and gracefully lands in the centre of a terribly romantic old Hollywood musical. It’s these moments of pure magic, along with Leithauser’s soulful vocals, that lift the album out of the funereal, into the sublime. 5/5