Album Review: Rostam – Half-Light

By Maria Lubanovic, Staff Writer
[Nonesuch; 2017]
Rating: 8/10

Key Tracks: “Bike Dream”, “Wood”, “Don’t Let It Get to You”

Half-Light is the debut solo album of Rostam, one of the key members of Vampire Weekend for 10 years, before he left the group last year. On this record, he’s taken the band’s whimsical and imaginative style, as well as his indie, electronic and dance inspiration to create a solo album that speaks for itself. He’s been releasing singles from this album since 2011, like “Wood” and “Don’t Let It Get to You”. The singles carry a distinctly different sound from the rest of the album, yet still blend well with the feeling this album tries to create.

Half-Light opens with “Sumer”, a lighthearted track with more than its share of effects. It evokes a feeling of summertime and freedom, which is carried into “Bike Dream”, one of the best tracks on the album. It heavily relies on indie-electronic instrumentals and airy vocals, and it feels right at home with Rostam’s Vampire Weekend tracks.

“Half-Light” takes a much more soulful and emotional turn, emphasizing piano playing over electronic effects until an instrumental break happens. The electronics under this track sound like an 8-bit video game. This sets the tone for the next few tracks, some which resemble movie soundtracks with sweeping violins and soft piano. “Wood” takes inspiration from Rostam’s Iranian family, and uses many of their traditional instruments to create a glittering soundscape before moving into a simple drum and tambourine rhythm.

“Don’t Let It Get to You” opens with a banging drum solo and is then joined by breathy flute and cascading production. It’s so much like other Vampire Weekend stuff that it makes you wonder what the group will ever do without Rostam. Also, it has the same flute synth from “A-Punk”, hell yeah. Since this is one of the earliest released singles, it makes sense that the style is so similar to the group he left. The instrumentals are just beautiful, making it probably the best track on the album. “I Will See You Again” and “Hold You” are much more personal and emotional. They are short and very different from each other. “I Will See You Again” is almost entirely piano and drum focused, while “Hold You” is much more electronically based and features the soft smooth vocals of Angel Deradoorian.

Even though this album is packed with creative and elaborate tracks, it does have a few duds. Halfway through “When”, it switches to a robotic, harsh tone. It’s just so off from the rest of the album that it is confusing. The end of “Rudy” is honestly a strange choice as well, ending with weird flutter-tonged sax. The last couple tracks on the album slow the momentum that was built through the first 9 tracks. The choral musicians on “EOS” almost make the song sound Christmassy. Yeah, it’s a little strange, especially because the rest of the track is basically acapella singing.

“Half-Light” ends on a vulnerable note with a reprise of “Don’t Let It Get to You”, this time with a soft piano entrance, and sung like he is directly speaking to you. It’s emotional, and almost like a thank you for waiting for this album to finally come out after years and years of waiting.

The best part of this album by far is Rostam’s ability to mix amazing instrumentals with heartfelt lyrics. He is able to create a mood with sound in a way that is almost cinematic. This album is definitely worth a listen, especially for Vampire Weekend fans.

Listen here:

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