Half-Light album review

Rostam Batmanglij has been involved in multiple music projects throughout his career, including working with Frank Ocean, Solange Knowles and Carly Rae Jepsen, as well as playing in Vampire Weekend. I was devastated when Batmanglij announced he was leaving Vampire Weekend in January 2016, fearing the band would never have the same dynamic. Luckily, Batmanglij did not disappoint with his first solo, full-length LP, “Half-Light.”

The multi-instrumentalist’s solo album contains hints of his former band. The most striking similarity is between the songs “Don’t Let It Get To You (Reprise)” by Batmanglij and “Young Lion” by Vampire Weekend. Both are the final songs on their respective albums and offer a simple message and melody that tie the previous songs together by creating a tranquil ending. Despite the similarities between “Half-Light” and past projects he has participated in, Batmanglij develops his own sound in his solo album.

My initial excitement for this release sparked when “Bike Dream,” a rhythm driven, quick-paced song, was released on June 14. Despite the upbeat melody, the lyrics illustrate Batmanglij’s longing to be in a happy and fulfilling relationship. The theme of love and relationships is continued in the title track of the album, “Half-Light.” The instruments, including piano, synthesizer and electric guitar (all played by Batmanglij!), along with Batmnglij’s floating vocals, work together to create an ethereal sound. Although the lyrics describe the end of a relationship, the song is not overly sad. It has the breath-taking quality that many musicians strive for, making it one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Batmanglij changes the topic from love to politics in the song “When.” Not only does the auto-tuned, spoken word section at the end catch your attention, but the lyrics also: “We just wanna change the distribution of wealth / The weapons industrial complex, and the use of / Force by sundown.” Batmanglij stated that he imagined the lyrics as a conversation during a protest, showing his passion towards causes he cares about.

The first two singles, “Wood” and “Don’t Let It Get To You,” were originally released in 2011 while Batmanglij was still a member of Vampire Weekend. He had been experimenting with his solo work years before “Half-Light” came out. At first listen, these songs did not instantly intrigue me. Fortunately, when I was able to listen to the album all the way through, the songs tied together through the music and lyrics, making each song better. What especially tied the album together was the ending, “Don’t Let It Get To You (Reprise).” The simple piano and synth background instill power into Batmanglij’s repeated words of “Please, don’t let it get to you / Even if you don’t realize it / It’s still all up to you.” The lyrics illustrate Batmanglij’s independence, while also encouraging others to take control of their own lives. The song creates a peaceful ending for an album teeming with a variety of sounds, instruments and messages.

As an avid Vampire Weekend fan, Batmanglij exceeded my expectations with this album. Even if you are unfamiliar with Batmanglij’s previous musical endeavors, “Half-Light” weaves between genres and offers intricate lyrics, delivering a thoroughly enjoyable musical experience.