When Rostam Batmanglij left Vampire Weekend at the beginning of 2016, there was no doubt of his bona fides as a producer and a songwriter. Not only was he a pillar of the VW aesthetic, but his talents led to studio time and credits with artists as diverse as Frank Ocean, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Solange. But with the upcoming September 15th release of his debut solo album, Half-Light, Rostam will attempt to stand on his own, allowing his voice to hold the spotlight like never before.
For the final advance offering from the collection, Rostam presents a tender, fragile piano ballad that gives little to distract from his own bare vocals. This serves as a sharp contrast from the other singles that he’s presented, with tracks like “Bike Dream” and “Gwan” as notable for the lush arrangements as they are for Rostam’s singing. But on “Half-Light,” there is little adornment for the vocal melody, with the track presented as a lyric video to further hone in on what Rostam is doing as a singer.
It’s not a secret that Rostam doesn’t have the technical vocal chops of his former Vampire Weekend bandmate Ezra Koenig, but “Half-Light” shows that doesn’t really matter. The recording veers far from attempting perfection, with every vocal quiver and between-line breath left as a signifier of intimacy. It’s a song that is more concerned with showing Rostam as he really is, and not how others might expect him to sound. Hinting at romance that is temporary but impactful, he paints a picture of the imprint that someone can leave long after they are physically absent.
Still, Rostam’s inclinations toward grand gestures can’t stay away for an entire song. Percussion and a buzzing synth burst in for the bridge, while Wet vocalist Kelly Zutrau closes the song with an echo of Rostam’s final verse. “Half-Light” is ultimately an accurate representation of the album that it’s preceding, where one of music’s most respected behind-the-scenes players comes into his own as a veritable star.
Listen to Rostam’s “Half-Light” above.