Sound — 8
The first member of The Strokes to make his move into the world of solo albums has come out with some surprising and overall satisfying results. Guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr.'s release Yours To Keep has unmistakable Strokes' elements that do pop up along the way, but at the same time there is a very different feel to it -- a mellow one. While using the word mellow might be a bit frightening to the more rock-oriented fans, behind the low-key delivery are quite a few enjoyable songs that feature Hammond's trademark melodic guitar work.
Although Yours To Keep features guest appearances from Strokes' vocalist Julian Casablancas, Sean Lennon, and Ben Kweller, it is Hammond that easily steals the spotlight. His vocal delivery takes several turns during the course of the record, and it's startling to hear how similar he can sound like John Lennon (an American version, at least). This phrasing is most prominent in Blue Skies, and Hammond captures Lennon's sound eerily well. When you add in the fact that a similar echo-heavy mic is used that recalls Lennon's No. 9 Dream, it really reinforces the similarities.
There are more than a few comparisons to other legends along the way, including a bit of Beach Boys in Cartoon Music For Superheroes (complete with multi-part harmonies and the high falsetto), and even a bit of ELO's Jeff Lynne on the bonus track Well... All Right. This is not to say that Hammond is trying to copy these musicians by any means. In fact, it's pretty incredible that he can create songs on his own that broach that territory.
While there are a few songs that have hints of The Strokes (In Transit and 101), the album is usually too laid back to maintain these comparisons. Even if you aren't one to usually pick up a softer rock record, Yours To Keep still should be commended for the beautiful melodies underneath the majority of the songs.
Lyrics — 7
While the lyrics seem heartfelt on the CD, they still do keep to a basic and traditional format. The words are fairly straightforward and allow the music to be the focal point on the record.
Musically, Scared is layered with vocal tracks and is ornate in its approach. The background vocalists actually sing in rounds for many lines during the song, so it was probably best to use basic lyrics. Hammond sings, Don't stop now that we're almost there, anyway; Oh I'm here for you; I know you're still there because you're scared that you'll lose everybody. They are touching lyrics, but aren't necessarily worded in a way that would necessarily get your attention in a song.
Call An Ambulance features a bit of wit in the mix. It starts off fairly benign, then pulls out something unexpected. He sings, Once I was told; That a boy caught a cold And he left to go home to get some sleep instead; His baby stayed where she was; I go talk to her 'cause; I wanna sleep with her. What at first almost sounds like a nursery rhyme suddenly turns into a bit of something any red-blooded boy would relate to. It's just a nice humorous touch that balances out the simplicity of many of the lyrics.
Overall Impression — 8
Listening to Yours To Keep takes you in several different directions, and a variety of comparisons can be drawn to classic artists. Even so, Hammond does a fine job of writing songs that have unique identities and don't ever feel like fillers. His guitar work is still very much present (and that is probably the most reminiscent aspect of The Strokes on the CD), but his vocals really do make an impression.
For Strokes' fans, Hammond's solo record is a very different animal. Perhaps 3 of the songs could fit on a Strokes album, while the rest are just too mellow and, for lack of a better word, pretty. Hammond has cemented an identity all for himself with Yours To Keep, and that's not an easy feat coming from a radio/critical/fan favorite like The Strokes.