Tag Archives: Hamilton Leithauser

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Hamilton Leithauser Returns Home to Play Brooklyn Steel

November 2nd, 2017

Hamilton Leithauser – Brooklyn Steel – November 1, 2017


Out of all of the musicians who had made a splash in the turn-of-the-century New York City rock scene you could argue that Hamilton Leithauser has aged more gracefully than the rest of the pack. Once the fiery-eyed frontman of the beloved indie-rock band the Walkmen, he’s made the transition toward more of a classic crooner as a solo artist. After the band went on hiatus in 2013, he released his elegant debut solo album, Black Hours, which owed as much to balladeers from the early ’60s as it did to the Walkmen’s post-punk and garage-rock roots. Things really began to gel on his most recent release, a collaborative album written with former Vampire Weekend multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij called I Had a Dream That You Were Mine. Every song is a winner and mixes Hamilton’s influences with Rostam’s orchestration and production work effortlessly. Initially, Leithauser’s voice was one of the things that set apart the Walkmen from all of the other indie rock bands of their day. It was a force to reckon with at a packed Brooklyn Steel last night, with fans eager to hear him in all of his ragged power.

There’s a part in the documentary Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? when Monty Python’s Eric Idle compares the late singer’s vocal stylings to the routine of trapeze artists. Nilsson would reach for these death-defying notes and you never knew if he was going to pull them off or fail miserably. When watching Leithauser sing, you can’t help but see him in a similar way. Only with Leithauser, a daredevil jumping a motorcycle over row of burning cars is a more fitting metaphor. When he’s about to belt out some of those death-defying notes, a part of you thinks it might go horribly wrong but he always seems to stick the landing.

Leithauser proved this over and over again on Wednesday. He and his band ran through all of I Had a Dream That You Were Mine and also treated the crowd to a few songs from Black Hours. On the majority of the material, Leithauser would bang out chords on his 12-string acoustic or delicately pick on his nylon-string guitar for the somber ballads. But he really shined when putting them aside in order to play the role of frontman, thanks to his distinct stage presence. Squeezing the microphone like the leader of a hardcore band, head tilted facing the sky, with his other hand either flung back or punching emphatically into the air. Opener Courtney Marie Andrews came out to duet on two songs, I Had a Dream’s beautiful fever dream of a closer, “1959,” and the newly released duet with Angel Olsen, “Heartstruck (Wild Hunger).” Their voices harmonized beautifully, and it was absolutely breathtaking when she took the lead on the latter number.

Leithauser was thankful to be back in Brooklyn and was conversational with the adoring hometown crowd. He treated the room to the piano ballad “Proud Irene,” off of a limited vinyl-only release, Dear God, which Leithauser would personally hand-deliver to people in the neighborhood. As he introduced the song and explained the release, you could tell there were a few people in the front row who had purchased it. For the encore, the band played through his first-ever collaboration with Rostam, “I Retired,” off of Black Hours, which Leithauser claimed was the best recording he’s ever been a part of. The performance ended with I Had a Dream’s “Peaceful Morning” and then a solo cover of Palace Music’s “Trudy Dies.” He then left the cheering crowd with a wave, joyfully exclaiming, “I’m Hamilton Leithauser. I live down the street.” —Pat King | @MrPatKing

 

 

 

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Rostam Brings Debut Solo Album to Music Hall of Williamsburg

September 25th, 2017

The story of Rostam Batmanglij is one of continuation and staying on his creative toes. With an open mind and an open heart he’s thrown himself into each expression and partnership without getting bogged down. There was some level of redefinition in order when the instant but unsustainable starburst of his former band, Vampire Weekend, leveled out a bit, at least beyond their base following. But it was inevitable that he’d forge his own path. With inherent musical proclivity, it was just a matter of discovering new outlets. And he’s certainly found them. Along with lending his enlivening sense of melody and world rhythm to the production of acts including Frank Ocean, Charli XCX and Carly Rae Jepsen—and oh, by the way, writing original music for the reprise of Kenneth Lonergan’s classic Broadway play This Is Our Youth—Rostam struck collaborative gold last year when he buddied up with Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser to gift us with the rollicking resplendence of I Had a Dream That You Were Mine (stream it below).

The volume of his work keeping him limber, he was prime to really hit a graceful, ground-covering stride on his first proper solo affair, Half-Light (stream it below). Just released this month, the effort carries that extraspecial glow and pop of every fifth firework. From the moment his Panda Bear–esque vocals sail into the album entrance of “Sumer,” a feeling of bright-eyed anticipation of what follows keeps afloat like an air-blasted ping pong ball. A youthful blend of vulnerability and moxie suspend in a seasoned weave of production that takes cues from all directions. There are even melodic allusions to the coiled-spring bop of Vampire Weekend, yet they’re shrewdly integrated, as in “Wood,” with cleanly bowed strings jumping into the gaps formed from the seductive Eastern percussion. When hearing the melodious, uplifting cheer of what can be construed as Rostam’s prideful retort to the chirping birds comes through his cry of “Please don’t let it get to you/ Even if you don’t realize it/ It’s still all up to you,” you’ll feel like running out buck naked to take on the world. He’s arrived at that point of confident eloquence, tightly embracing what made him and what moves him—and letting the tracks fall where they may.

Rostam once said that he’s interested in inclusion rather than exclusion, that his goal is to make music that can move anybody. His solo album easily surpasses this goal, and when performed live, the vibe pulses through the crowd. There’s that inestimable moment in time when a beloved honorary New Yorker who has contributed richly to this city’s music scene returns to play under a spotlight that is all his. That rare moment comes Wednesday at Music Hall of Williamsburg. You’ll be able to reach up and touch the electricity in the atmosphere on the night. Among the devoted and adoring Vampire Weekenders and newly blossomed fans of his duet album with Hamilton Leithauser, others, picked up along his musical path where the scenery has never been dull, will join in on the anticipation of a prolific artist, who many leap at the chance to work alongside, finally having his own moment in the spotlight. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

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Former Vampire Weekend Member Rostam Plays The Bowery Ballroom

May 2nd, 2017

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij first burst onto the music scene as the guitarist-keyboardist for Vampire Weekend—he also produced the band’s first two albums. Batmanglji amicably left the group early last year to launch a solo career as Rostam. I Had a Dream That You Were Mine (stream it below), a collaborative effort with former Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser, arrived last September. “Leithauser and Rostam take their flair for reimagining classic sounds with postmodern glee to new levels,” said AllMusic. And with a full-length solo album due later this year, Rostam (above, the video for his brand-new single, “Gwan”) plays The Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday. Former Dirty Projectors bassist, keyboardist and vocalist Deradoorian opens the show.

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Hamilton Leithauser Kicks Off the Weekend at The Bowery Ballroom

January 28th, 2015

For more than a decade, Hamilton Leithauser has been known as the frontman of turn-of-the-century NYC rockers the Walkmen. But that band went on an “extreme hiatus” in late 2013 following a tour in support of their seventh studio album, Heaven. Not one to sit idly by, Leithauser (above, performing “5 AM” live in studio for WFUV FM) put out his first solo full-length, the Frank Sinatra–inspired Black Hours (stream it below), late last spring. It’s safe to say that critics were impressed. “In the hands of a less capable fontman and songwriter, Black Hours could have turned out as a cheesy attempt at ’50s pastiche. Instead, it’s a lively, confident and charming first effort,” said the A.V. Club. And Leithauser kicks off the weekend by entertaining his hometown fans on Friday night at
The Bowery Ballroom
. But arrive early because the big-voiced Elle King opens the show.

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Broken Bells Play Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on Friday Night

September 24th, 2014

Brian Burton—aka Danger Mouse—was already renowned for his considerable production work and being one half of Gnarls Barkley, and James Mercer was best known for fronting the Shins when the two combined forces to form Broken Bells in 2010. In calling their self-titled debut album (stream it below) “a sweet ’n’ sour and head-spinningly trippy set,” BBC Music declared, “Rarely have such brooding sentiments sounded so alluring.” And while some thought this would only be a one-off, Burton and Mercer remained true to their word about forming a band rather than making an album together just once. In fact they returned this past winter with their sophomore effort, After the Disco (stream it below). Spin mentioned “the idea of Broken Bells as a partnership built on the past’s vision of the future” and also called it “the rare, superior sequel—think Toy Story 2.” And although Broken Bells (above, doing “Perfect World” on Live on Letterman) record as a duo, they perform live as a full band. Go see them outside on Friday night at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser opens the show.

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You Can Go Home Again

October 19th, 2012

The Walkmen – Terminal 5 – October 18, 2012


“This is a real homecoming show for all of us,” announced Hamilton Leithauser, frontman of the Walkmen, to the crowd at Terminal 5 last night, adding, somewhat wistfully, “We don’t all live here anymore.” Indeed, times have changed since the band debuted at the start of the millennium, often unwittingly grouped with a plethora of guitar-driven bands comprising the so-called “new” New York City music scene.

Now with seven studio albums (including their latest release, Heaven) to their credit, it’s easy to see why the Walkmen may have resented initial comparisons to other of-the-moment bands—although they certainly have attitude, style and the kind of punchy guitar lines that can rile up a crowd. But since their inception, the band has taken pains to set them apart: crafting their songs with erudite lyrics, shifting dynamics and intricate compositions, often using vintage instruments.

In particular, the Walkmen excel at experimenting with the opposing forces of restraint and excess, frequently illustrated during last night’s show. Leithauser relished in the measured delivery of slow-building numbers like “138th Street” and “In the New Year,” while during more unhinged songs like “All Hands and the Cook,” “Angela Surf City” and “The Rat,” he shout-sang lyrics with unbridled immediacy. The Walkmen closed out the night with a hit from their 2002 debut album, the piano-tinged “We’ve Been Had.” It’s a song with lyrics brimming with nostalgia, and a fitting finish for an accomplished band returning to their formative city. —Alena Kastin