Our hearts are broken, his heart is broken — we’re all broken.
By leaving Vampire Weekend — one of the most essential millennial bands to surface since Arcade Fire — Rostam Batmanglij, the band’s former producer, ensured that. But he wants to move on, and we’ll hear him out. His latest single, whether deliberate in that association or not, stays in the field of separation and heartbreak, as ROSTAM attempts to make a name for himself beyond Vampire Weekend.
The music video for “Gravity Don’t Pull Me” succeeds in this far better than its predecessors. While “EOS,” “Don’t Let it Get to You” and “Wood” could all feasibly be worked into his former band’s sound, this is ROSTAM’s first track on which he gives a true argument that he can flourish as an individual, not simply as support for an absorbing frontman or woman — at least production-wise. Where his first solo works each struggled at times to carry themselves through the whole track, giving a sense of unrealized potential, “Gravity Don’t Pull Me” turns and spins start to finish, maintaining the energy. The tail-end of the track evolves into a consuming synth reminiscent of the elusive electronic artist Jai Paul, and it features some of ROSTAM’s most captivating solo work yet.
Lyrically, though, ROSTAM still lags. His songwriting is basic and straightforward, a strong contrast to Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig’s complex witticisms and intricate tales. “Gravity Don’t Pull Me” gives itself away clearly: “And the worst way I ever felt / Was from this same boy that I still miss / Cause I messed it up / And it broke my heart.” Still, it’s a strong enough message to complete the track and add some emotion while it’s at it.
The video that accompanies the track reflects the lyrics — stripped-down, straightforward and occasionally interesting. ROSTAM enters our view singing into a mic and spends the rest of the video doing just that. The true driving force behind this video is the dancers, Jack Grabow and Sam Asa Pratt. Their compelling choreography, peaking when their mirrored movements become nearly indecipherable from one another, captures the pop sensibility of the track and the longing that its words divulge. The camerawork and the visual effects speckled throughout add traces, making sure not to interfere too much.
The video, however, suffers from the same problem his prior releases did: unrealized potential. The best moments, when the song, dance and effects are most in-sync, are too often disrupted or tabled for more scenes of ROSTAM at the mic. It’s understandable that he wants the focus on himself for a change, but it’s too jarringly generic against the backdrop of the track and the dancers. When the video ends with ROSTAM walking slowly away from the stand, it’s difficult to shake off a feeling of hackneyed millennial cheesiness.
One commenter aptly notes, “This is the most New York thing I’ve ever seen,” and while for that I would direct readers to Matt and Kim’s “Daylight” video, the specter of New York is clear. The dancers are dressed in all black, there’s a grimy white wall, a fashionable looking rain-jacket and a general sense that everyone involved in this video lives in Brooklyn.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But for an artist trying his best to establish his own, ROSTAM risks succumbing to his affiliations when he needs to transcend them most. “Gravity Don’t Pull Me” is a step in the right direction. It’s still just a step.