Albert Hammond, Jr.

AHJ

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During the five years between AHJ and ┬┐Como Te Llama?, Albert Hammond, Jr. completed rehab and reunited with the Strokes for two albums, 2011's Angles and 2013's Comedown Machine. It's hard not to feel that this work ethic rubbed off on his solo career: Hammond made AHJ an EP instead of another full-length in order to showcase his best songs -- a markedly different approach than he took on his previous solo work, where his let-it-all-hang-out aesthetic was a big part of the charm. Producer Gus Oberg, who also helped craft the Strokes' 2010s albums, helps Hammond forge a sound that complements his previous solo work as well as his legacy with that band. The brittle riff that begins "St. Justice" is unmistakably Hammond, and much more guitar-driven than the music his main band was making at the time. ┬┐Como Te Llama? already had a handful of songs that recalled the Strokes, so AHJ's focus on that side of Hammond's music feels natural, and at times even more inspired than the band's latter-day material. The Strokes' best songs generated sparks with the friction of their cheeky and heartfelt impulses, and while Hammond is more earnest here than the Strokes ever were, or on his earlier work for that matter, there's a similar tug of war between AHJ's bouncy veneers and melancholy undercurrents. This is especially true of the EP's standout track, "Strange Tidings," which feels more intimate and confessional in its recriminations ("Watch what you say/If I'm guilty, I will pay") than the similarly moody songs by his other band. Though the EP format doesn't leave much room for dabbling or dawdling, Hammond does find time to temper his newfound clarity with a little of his old mischief on "Rude Customer," a blend of rip-roaring guitars and clipped, almost British-sounding vocals. Jaunty and jagged, AHJ is easily Hammond's most consistent release. For perhaps the first time, his solo work feels less like a tangent to his work with the Strokes and more like something sustainable in its own right.

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