Albert Hammond Jr.

¿Cómo Te Llama? (RCA)

The blueprint to Albert Hammond Jr.'s music is rife with red flags: the affinity for '70s pop clichés; the certain cellophane sheen; the saccharine lyrics; the Bono-quality Spanish. And, of course, the ever-looming specter of his "other" band, which is especially hard to avoid when your songs are chock-full of Strokes signifiers: snapped snares; twitchy guitar sounds; sweetly parabolic melodies; and a romantically lethargic vocal delivery that's only a grade of coarseness away from that of Julian Casablancas himself. Actually, Hammond's approach to song aesthetics—basic, thin and stylish—is a lot closer to the early-Strokes style the band's fans have lately been demanding than anything the Strokes themselves have recently recorded.

First and foremost, though, he's the son of a songwriter. What's invariably clear on ¿Cómo Te Llama? is that Hammond understands how a popular rock song is made, and how it works: He has an iron-clad grip on traditional forms, writes good melodies with apparent ease, keeps it simple and decorates tastefully with a variety of twirls and twinkles. In particular, "Bargain of a Century" and "GFC" are pleasantly messy, and ¿Cómo Te Llama? is best when the songs seem to shake and quaver within their candy-coated shells. Fittingly, that's when they're at their Strokes-iest.

It's a slippery slope this guy is skiing, but it can be pretty fun listening to him do it.

 
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