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Albert Hammond, Jr.
Yours To Keep
Rough Trade/New Line Records

When musicians feel frustrated in their own band, they often go solo; which is what vocalist/guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr. has done. Disavowing himself from The Strokes, Hammond, Jr. set out on his own musical path with new band mates Josh Lattanzi on bass and Matt Romano on drums. His debut album with his new band Yours To Keep has folk synth-pop merit with jaunts of '70s soft rock currents and acoustic-pop psalms. The layered arrangements are stylistically plaited with a dreamy-pop sonorous which requires additional musicians for the tour that includes guitarist Steve Schiltz, keyboardist/guitarist Marc Philippe Eskenazi, and guitarist Todd Dahlhoff. Hammond, Jr.'s covers of Guided By Voices' tune "Postal Blowfish" and Buddy Holly's song "Well…All Right" indicates his attraction to soft rock melodies, but I found much more similarity to Hammond, Jr.'s father's own music.

His father Albert Hammond, Sr. was a prolific singer-songwriter during the '70s and '80s and penned hit songs for other recording artists like "It Never Rains In Southern California," "The Air Than I Breathe," "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," and "Be Tender With Me Baby." Hammond, Jr., who was born in 1980, grew up listening to mainstream pop literally being made in his own home. More than tapping into outside influences, his solo album shows qualities of the middle-of-the-road (MOR) production that his father made. They say "like father like son" but the big difference between the Hammonds is that the junior one is stepping into the forefront rather than consenting to being a background player, though junior still makes music like his father - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

The lo-fi numbers like "Cartoon Music For Superheroes" and "Everyone Gets A Star" have an easy listening soft rock vibe. The synth-pop riffs have a folk sensibility and cushiony esthetics that have a likening to Oasis and Spoon. Hammond, Jr. focuses on making good sounding melodies with soft drum and bass thumps and synth planks lining the belly of the melody as the guitar layers add textures and vibrancy. It's formulaic in approach and yet execution-wise each song has its own individual coating, a trait which Hammond, Sr. also showed in the songs he penned. The comfy beats of "In Transit" along nu wave style synth prances display an Electric Soft Parade assiduity and care, while the acoustic-pop suds-zing on "Blue Skies" flumes with a folk feathering similar to Aqueduct and Gomez.

The downy chamber-pop chimes and wiring on tracks like "Back To The 101" and "Scared" are lightweight and melodically toned with a feel good sensation. They are songs you'd hear played in the Student Union at college. "Call An Ambulance" has ukulele pitched chords reminiscent of Ben Lee and Illinois, and the pulsating guitar twists on "Holiday" have correlations with Sirens Sister's youthful springs and enthusiasm. The soft punk guitar tones and syncopated drumbeats on "Postal Blowfish" have a style likened to Monsters Are Waiting and the final track "Well…All Right" have the smooth lines and subtle dynamics of Fountains Of Wayne.

Though Hammond, Jr. has the skills to construct comfy MOR melodies like Fountains Of Wayne for the college set, his lyrics have a blandness and generic phrasing that could come from anyone. His song "Scared" recites, "You know that something inside of you still plays a part in what I do/ Always I'm here for you/ I think that if we were all we had, that's more than most people ever have." The lyrics don't connect with people in a lasting way like Fountains Of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom," which is Hammond, Jr.'s weakest aspect in his songs. The reality or fantasies that he sings about in his songs are made with vague statements. Now that he is engaged to Catherine Pierce, who is one half of the sister duo vocal group The Pierces and who are also opening for Hammond Jr.'s shows, people are expecting more specialized lyrics to come from him.

Yours To Keep was produced by Greg Lattimer and also features vocal overdubs by Sean Lennon, Ben Kweller, The Strokes' Julian Casablancas, Fountains Of Wayne's Jody Porter, and The Mooney Suzuki's Sam James, Jr. The soft rock coasting of Hammond, Jr.'s melodies are easy to like but also generic enough to forget. They make a good impression like a Savage Garden tune, but they are quick to forget once the next good sounding melody comes along, just like Savage Garden.

-Susan Frances

Track Listing:
1. Cartoon Music For Superheroes
2. In Transit
3. Everyone Gets A Star
4. Bright Young Thing
5. Blue Skies
6. Back To The 101
7. Call An Ambulance
8. Scared
9. Holiday
10. Postal Blowfish
11. Well…All Right

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