‘I Had A Dream That You Were Mine’ is an album of songs Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam wrote and recorded together between July 2014 and February 2016. In the spirit of collaborative albums, not unlike those of David Byrne and Brian Eno, each musician’s individuality remains in tact, while in fact, on this record, both Hamilton’s identity as a singer and Rostam’s as a producer seem to reach new heights.
“This was a record I’d been wanting to make for at least a decade,” Rostam says. “As a fan of Hamilton’s voice in the Walkmen, I’d been wanting to capture it in ways it hadn’t been captured before — to make songs with him that placed the crooner right beside the howler, the screamer beside the whisperer — to try to leave no stone unturned in terms of how we should approach the delivery of a song. And also to try to push his voice outside of any musical context it had lived in before.”
Says Leithauser, “Rostam’s one-man-band process is so fundamentally different from the way I’ve always written songs, and it’s very impressive. We had no idea what kind of music we were going to make — we actually didn’t know we were working on an album at first — but unexpected things kept falling into place. We were writing and recording everything simultaneously — it was flat-out inspiring just to be there.”
Many of these songs seem to take place in a memory of New York’s past, or wading through the waist high waters in a half-submerged New York of the future. Yet what unites them is that they tell stories — ‘I Had A Dream That You Were Mine’ is an album, a collection of songs yes, but also a collection of narratives. “The Bride’s Dad” faithfully recounts an unexpected (an probably uninvited) guest at a friend’s recent wedding; “You Ain’t That Young Kid” follows the wistful narrator through a night of lost love and transformed resolve.
From the doo-wop of “When the Truth is…” to the country pedal steel of “The Morning Stars”; from the piano and organ alchemy of the Band in “A 1000 Times,” to the Leonard Cohen-esque Spanish triplets of “In a Black Out”; the album harnesses the exploding musical styles of midcentury America — which, when melded with the warbled 1980’s analogue synthesizers of “You Ain’t That Young Kid,” the ultramodern sub bass of “Sick as a Dog,” the intimate falsetto of “1959,” and the raucous bar-room chorus of “Rough Going” — sparks an entirely unexpected and innovative style.