iPhone commercials are silly. Sometimes that's deliberate, but other times it's because they try to convince you that the only proper way to view the world around you is through a screen or because they paint the device as the all singing, all dancing key to a fulfilling existence. And yet, their latest, which touts the lowlight camera of the upcoming iPhone 7 comes as close as they ever have to convincing you that the machine you use to watch YouTube videos on the toilet is indeed magical. That's partially due to the dark, dreamy visuals, but mostly Tim Cook and Co. owe thanks to whoever was tasked with choosing the accompanying music.

So great is the power of Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam Batmanglij's new record that they can ring the cynicism from the most blatant of corporate cash plays.

The song in question, 'In a Blackout', which we should all hope becomes a Feist-ian slow-burning sensation, was one that Leithauser had been kicking around for ages but had never found the proper way to give it a contemporary spin.

"I've wanted to do a triplet, nylon, Leonard Cohen-style song for so many years," Leithauser said. "Every time I tried to do it - and I tried with the Walkmen several times - it just didn't make sense, and it never ended up sounding like anything beyond something recorded in 1967. It just didn't sound new enough, and that's what Rostam brought to that song."

On the record, Leithauser references Joan Didion and sings about dancing beneath halogen lamps, painting an evocative image of bygone days that could make even the staunchest futurist long for the past. But he's right, the song's intricate guitar, which cascades and collects like rain on a windshield, would've been out of place on any of The Walkmen's seven studio albums, and perhaps even Leithauser's solo effort, Black Hours. It fits perfectly on I Had a Dream though; the connective tissue of the album is simply the pair's magnificent chemistry, a product of their lengthy history as friends and previous collaborations on Leithauser tracks 'Alexandra' and 'I Retired'. From there, the two connected at Rostam's home in L.A. (Leithauser doesn't recall if he was invited or if he invited himself).

"We had no idea what it was going to be, and we didn't decide to make a full record until six months later when we really had a lot of stuff together," Leithauser explained.

Throughout the sessions, Leithauser was struck by how quickly the ex-Vampire Weekend factotum was able to switch gears from writing to recording, capturing ideas mere moments after their inception.


"The main thing that Rostam brought to the room was the ability to record stuff immediately when you have an idea. In the past I've always been at like a band practice and we'd record our demo and then six months later go into the studio," said Leithauser. "Here, it was like, 'Let's just do it right now'."

That sense of immediacy is an integral element of I Had a Dream, from the demur doo-wop harmonies of 'Rough Going (I Won't Let Up)' to the hail of snares and toms on 'The Morning Stars', a song that feels sonically like the stripped-down successor to Walkmen opus 'The Rat'. I Had a Dream is the kind of album that feels like it's already in progress and you just happen to be tuning in, as if you stumbled upon Hamilton and Rostam performing it in a dimly-lit basement bar after a few strong drinks. That aura, which they even managed to translate into a stirring performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, was the hard-earned product of several binge-purge recording sessions at Rostam's studio, a method that allowed them to revisit the material with a new perspective.

"It took us two years to make this record, but we did these intense recording days where we would work so long, and then at the end of the week we'd just be so exhausted," Leithauser said. "I'd [go] home, and we really wouldn't talk about music for six weeks... then we'd come out and then right when you walk in the room and throw the mix up it's kind of like you never left, but you have fresh ears."

That distance allowed them to refine without the needling compulsion that comes from being cooped up with your own work for too long. Using imperfect takes was something it took Leithauser some time to get used to, but there's a certain roughness and grain that is essential to many of these tracks, especially 'The Bride's Dad', which starts off dryly comedic but builds to an impassioned crescendo. The song was inspired by a speech Leithauser witnessed at a friend's wedding, and he found himself struck by the concept of a father returning to make amends after a prolonged absence. Beginning with a delicate piano waltz and morphing into a triumphant, if bittersweet full-band romp, the song's off-the-cuff quality is as essential to its narrative as Rostam's ephemeral keys or Leithauser's breathtaking delivery, which waxes and wanes effortlessly until the final line.

'The Bride's Dad' also highlights another particularly integral aspect of the I Had a Dream writing process. Both Hamilton and Rostam have backgrounds writing in bands, but found the freedom they were afforded working as a pair to be eye-opening musically.

"There's really this feeling like we could make any kind of music. It's a little frightening too because there's nothing to fall back on, but it's definitely freeing for the songwriting," Leithauser said. "There's no band waiting for each person to have a part to play, there's no banjo player waiting, there's no drummer sitting there waiting. There's no pressure to stick with lineups, or to have a sound like a band's history, because you don't have a history."

I Had a Dream certainly isn't a record without a history though, and the video for its lead single, the stunning 'A 1000 Times' (whose intro "I had a dream that you were mine / I've had that dream a thousand times" makes it another perfect iPhone commercial anthem, albeit one that's more tongue-in-cheek) served as a bit of a Leithauser and Batmanglij family reunion.

Inspired by a snapshot of a teenage Leithauser performing that the singer has in his apartment, the video opens with a young would-be Hamilton (played by the son of a friend), before morphing into Leithauser himself and eventually his father (who is also a singer). All three are clad in a white shirt and black jeans like he wore in the original image, looking a bit like three generations of Smiths cover bands. The original idea was Rostam's (he co-directed the video with Josh Goleman), but Leithauser suggested that he include the elder Batmanglij as well.

The pantomime is endearing (the kid would be dynamite if they ever make a Sing Street 2), but it also isn't flawless, likely by design. It perfectly fits on an album that feels so uniquely alive and spontaneous, one that prioritizes emotion over pure precision.

Reception for I Had a Dream has been glowing thus far, but Hamilton and Rostam still have one more obstacle to tackle; figuring out how to sculpt their album for an upcoming string of shows.

"You get to the point where it's time to start playing these things and you realize, 'Wait are you gonna play that or am I gonna play that and who the hell is gonna play this?'" Leithauser said with a chuckle.

Even if the duo don't figure out how to perfectly graft every note of I Had a Dream for the road it's hard to imagine the experience being anything less than stellar. After all, if the album is any indication, Hamilton and Rostam might have figured out something even more compelling than perfection anyway.

Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam play Hoxton Hall on October 5th. Their debut album, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine, is out now via Glassnote Records.