2021 • ROCK/POP • MATSOR PROJECTS
On his second solo record, Vampire Weekend’s former member Rostam delivers some nice and catchy hooks and promising sounds, however, nothing sounds really concrete.
“Changephobia” is a term that doesn’t exist. It’s basically the union of the words “change” and “phobia” that generates a term that references the fear of change. However, it makes a lot of sense to be the name of Rostam’s second album. Since he left the American rock-alternative band Vampire Weekend, in 2016, Rostam went through a lot of changes. He played several instruments and worked with nowadays’ most promising artists, like Charli XCX, Carly Rae Jepsen, Maggie Rogers, Clairo, Frank Ocean, Solange, and his most frequent collaborators, the Los Angeles band HAIM. And it is in these changes that the title of the record makes sense: he went through a lot, he transformed himself and in his new album he sees that change is something fundamental for human beings, even if in practice, do not practice this in its entirety.
Although Changephobia shows the American singer experimenting and making new mixes, it is still, for the most part, messy, lost, and trapped both in Rostam’s past and in some ideas that are anything but concrete. Over the 11 new tracks, he plays with rock, pop, alternative, jazz, and even tries to insert some elements of regional music. But in the end, the point is not even that it doesn’t work but rather that everything seems so momentary and just a set of precocious, tenuous, fragile ideas that the singer can’t take full advantage of. Of course, there are some good moments but most of the album sounds shallow and rickety. In other words, the album definitely sees the potential of changes but it’s also proof that not every change is good.
The positive side of Changephobia is divided between good tracks and acceptable and listenable tracks. First, while “To Communicate” counts as a very interesting and good production, “Starlight” closes the album being the most conscious track on the album where all the elements make sense. In the second group, we have “Bio18,” which despite not having the best-dosed, purposeful and balanced combinations, managed to be relatively captivating. On the same hand, “Next Thing” has as its charm its sound distortions that were one of the album’s strongest points, although it still doesn’t sound like something original. But the best track is the album’s lead single, “4Runner,” where Rostam delivers this pop-rock instrumental from the late 2000s and early 2010s alongside beautifully written lyrics about a simple car trip with his lover. “Sleeping behind the wheel/Pulled over on the freeway/4Runner, stolen plates/Long, long gone,” he sings.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are so really (really) bad songs in here. This happens either because Rostam seems a bit stuck in his past or because he is simply trying to create something cohesive, spoiling the internal concept of some tracks. In the first case, you can look at the album’s second track, “From the Back of a Cab,” which, while relatively entertaining, sounds a lot like something Vampire Weekend would have delivered in 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City — a kind of discard. Also, slightly less than the opener, “These Kids We Knew,” this track also sounds too weak because it’s so short and doesn’t deeply develop both its sound and its lyrics. In the second case, we can mention the title track which, despite a very cool chorus, has a bizarre second verse where Rostam tries to rap on top of jazz, creating an extremely unpleasant mix. Looks like he had put some Jazz elements in some songs but they had gotten really out of place on the album so he decided to spread jazz pinches over other songs to create cohesiveness but ended up creating these weird combinations. This happens on “[interlude],” which starts off fine but everything falls apart when the saxophone comes in. Lastly, “Unfold You” and “Kinney” sound like they’re well produced but, with a closer look, you can see they’re pretty poorly mixed. But, well, at least you can’t say Rostam hasn’t changed.