It can be a daunting task to make a name for yourself in the music industry; it can be even more daunting to launch a solo career, especially when you’re already associated with big names to begin with. But, there are those who have accomplished both tasks – case in point, Albert Hammond Jr. You may know him as the son of British rock legend, Albert Hammond, or possibly as the quirky guitarist of The Strokes. You may even simply know him as Albert Hammond Jr. Regardless, Albert’s career has been a long journey full of highs, lows, and everything in between. Fans worldwide have grown to love his easy-going and passionate personality, not to mention his wardrobe of classy suits. With the recent release of Albert Hammond Jr.’s new EP, AHJ, the talented rocker has reawakened.
As our Artist of the Week continues to embark on the journey of success, we take a look back at where this path began.
Albert Hammond Jr. Releases New EP, Continues Storied Career
It’s no surprise that Albert Hammond Jr. is a musician; he was born into it. His father, Albert Hammond had a successful career as a singer-songwriter in the ’60s and ’70s, and he’s still a household name in the music business. With this in mind, in 1998 Albert Hammond Jr. helped form The Strokes in New York City. The band became a central influence of the ’90s indie rock revival, with their debut album Is This It, which is still held dearly in the hearts of indie music lovers everywhere (not to mention it was #10 on Rolling Stone’s top ten debut albums of all time).
Fast forward to 2006, when The Strokes released their third album, First Impressions of Earth. After the release, the band announced they would take a short hiatus. It was at this time that Albert Hammond Jr. blossomed into the world of a solo artist. In the same year, his debut solo record Yours To Keep was released. Songwriting was nothing new to Albert, who co-wrote a few songs for The Strokes including “Automatic Stop,” as well as tracks for the band’s tour video “In Transit.” These songs were later remade into Albert’s own solo tracks, “Everyone Gets a Star,” “Bright Young Thing,” and (of course) “In Transit.” Yours To Keep proved to be a memorable debut with Albert’s stylish guitar riffs and pop-indie vibes, plus the added help from the likes of Sean Lennon and fellow Stroke, Julian Casablancas.
Albert Hammond Jr. didn’t stop there; as quickly as Yours To Keep was released, he was back in the studio working on his next solo album. In 2008, ¿Cómo Te Llama? was released after just five weeks, with the production done by Albert himself.
After a busy two years of touring, supporting such acts as Incubus, Bloc Party, and Coldplay, Albert returned to his venture with The Strokes to release 2009’s Angles and 2013’s Comedown Machine. It was at this time that Albert went to rehab for his then well-known drug battles. For the first time, Albert publicly discussed his struggles with addiction and now, he’s proud to state that he’s four years sober. In light of his newly found self, Albert Hammond Jr. released a new five-song EP branded with his initials, AHJ. It was recorded under Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records, and even though AHJ is just a five-song EP, it is nothing short of a rebirth, brimming with fresh sounds and deep lyrics.
Hammond Jr. appears more comfortable in his skin than ever, and his work has a taken on a sound of its own. While his style is somewhat reflective of The Strokes, Albert has still made it his own with idiosyncratic guitar licks, mid-tempo beats with viscous bass lines, flawless melodic arrangements, and a wide range of vocals. Yet, some of the best work comes through Albert’s lyrics. They are personal, reflective, and make you feel one with the music. In “Cooker Ship,” Albert sings “self-inflicted nightmare / lately I’m just not quite myself.” It appears these lyrics are indicative of Albert’s darker past, and the personal revelation hits you as a listener. Sometimes, lyrics can be more meaningful than the music itself, and Albert has really developed as an artist within them.
I caught Albert Hammond Jr. live a few weeks ago, and I’m still impressed; it did not feel like simply seeing the solo work of The Strokes guitarist. You’d think that with his resume, he would be cocky and distant, but it was the complete opposite. Albert was humble, happy, and comfortable to be playing in front of his peers – it felt like a gathering of friends. Albert could easily sell out large venues, but instead, his current tour rolls through smaller, intimate settings, and it couldn’t be a better choice.
It’s hard to believe Albert Hammond Jr. is only 33 years old. What he has accomplished so far is comparable to the background of a retired rock star. Many musicians compare being in a band to marriage; the same can be said for Albert’s relationship with The Strokes. Even though The Strokes are a collaborative effort, ultimately the band’s sum is greater than its parts.
Albert was able to take a break to focus on his solo work, without leaving The Strokes, and in the process, he created his own impressive musical outlet that has captured the hearts of fans and the music industry alike. Hammond Jr. has stated that he almost prefers to release a few songs every few months, instead of producing a new album every year or two. Whichever path he chooses, though, fans will be eagerly waiting for his next move.
While Albert Hammond Jr. may always be known as a “Stroke,” if you take a listen to his solo work, you’ll soon realize that he is way more than that. Hammond Jr. has conquered what every musician wishes to accomplish—he’s full of talent, he’s overcome the obstacles that have brought down many, and through it all, he’s remained true to his vision. After a series of struggles, Albert Hammond Jr. has been reborn.
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Article by Erika Reinsel