It’s been five years since we’ve heard from everyone’s favorite floppy-haired Stroke in solo form. Since 2008’s hit-and-miss Como Te Llama?, Albert Hammond, Jr. has not only released two albums with his day job band, he got sober after an ugly battle with heroin and Oxycontin. This rebirth comes in the form of an album, his clean slate temperament palpable on a five-song comeback EP simply titled AHJ. Sobriety suits Hammond Jr. well, as these are easily some of his strongest songs to date.
“St. Justice” opens the collection on an understated note with its mid-tempo, bass-heavy demeanor, sounding like something that might have graced the second half of First Impressions of Earth. Hammond, Jr.’s voice is immediately striking. Here, and on about 90% of the EP, he sings with no effects to aid, muddle, or distort his singing. It’s a jarring change of pace, but one that’s much appreciated. On “Cooker Ship” he goes full-on frontman, his vocal chords straining to reach their uppermost register during the anthemic chorus. This adds a personality and warmth that were less apparent on previous releases.
AHJ hits the market via Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records, and you can feel the guiding hand of The Strokes’ frontman on the EP’s razor sharp production. Equally pristine is Hammond Jr.’s fretwork: power pop nugget “Carnal Cruise” channels Dave Davies, and his tremendous solo on “Rude Customer” dials up the raunchiness while keeping his trademark mathematical precision intact.
On AHJ, there’s not a bad apple in the admittedly small bunch. It’s 15 minutes of music from a guy who is finally comfortable with himself, and that’s clearly doing his music justice.
Essential Tracks: “St. Justice”, “Cooker Ship”