The first of the Strokes to wander away from the smoking klatch of woolen military jackets and scarves tied just so, Albert Hammond Jr. seems set on making music that has a more folk-pop, Beach Boys-ish direction than the nuanced rock and roll of his superstar band. As guitarist for the Strokes, Hammond kept his playing steady and artful, his clean approach a seemingly cultivated response to the increasingly ragged vocals of Julian Casablancas. Hammond's semi-new solo record Yours to Keep (out on the Rough Trade label last October) finds the sleepy-eyed musician doing a Sesame Street-stoner version of Strokesian indie rock. His solo work demonstrates the same music-school approach to guitar, alongside surprisingly earnest and sweet vocals and a relaxed sensibility. The songs are angst-free and contemplative, reminiscent of what we're used to from more seasoned folk rockers.
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If the Strokes (who are, incidentally, still together) defined sidewalk-pounding urbanity, Hammond's current project is better suited for weekend six-pack and flip-flop retreats to cobwebby seaside cabins. Hammond opens for Incubus, the strangely resilient Californian band whose frat boy alt-rock seems an odd pairing for a member of the NYC cool guard.