If you go
What: Albert Hammond Jr.
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: Moon Room (at Summit Music Hall), 1902 Blake St, Denver., 303-487-0111
More info: moonroomatsummit.com
It shouldn't surprise anyone that Albert Hammond Jr. sounds refreshed.
His new EP, AHJ, sounds more alive and more like the Strokes guitarist we're familiar with than his first two solo records. It's been five years since the last one, ¿Cómo Te Llama?, and in that time the Strokes released two records — 2011's Angles and this year's Comedown Machine — and Hammond recovered from some serious drug problems.
He's talked a lot about in interviews recently, and though it all sounds incredibly dark, he seems to be well past it. Not only that, but he's found getting clean is good for his music.
"I mean, at first you feel like you're definitely more creative when you're not doing anything," Hammond said. "It's just that sometimes you can open different doors when you do do stuff. The problem is when you're doing it all the time, you don't end up working as hard. When it interferes with the work is when that's not good. Obviously, I don't have the middle ground. I feel more creative than I ever have. It's something that you chip away, though. I don't want to say it just came."
AHJ is just five tracks, but every one is brimming with fun guitar work. Much of that comes from a stronger desire to push himself. Motivation was coming from all sides — the refreshing feeling of sobriety, working with Strokes' bandmate Julian Casablancas and a need to do better than the last records.
"I felt excited to be myself again. I felt like I had so much knowledge from playing with the Strokes for 12 years," he said. "I started to realize I could do so much better. Parts were coming out where I would usually stop and be satisfied and not know where to go. I was pushing it more and thinking about it more."
The EP is pretty distinct Hammond, but his years with the Strokes, and his time with them between solo albums, plus the collaboration with Casablancas, comes through. He said he hated the idea of people thinking of him playing acoustic guitar on his first record, and the second began to move away from that. AHJ is a return to his old style.
"I imagine the band's influence will always be on me and on all of us. It was great to have Julian, to be on his label, to have him be excited about the songs," Hammond said. "I lived with him for seven years. It kind of felt like that."
His lyrics are already getting picked apart. The natural inclination of most people is look for the references to drug addiction. They can be found, but Hammond said he doesn't write with literal statement in mind.
"When I'm writing lyrics, it's such a process of being in a certain moment ... but afterward, when you're thinking about it, you don't really remember that exact moment. I think you're always trying to write somewhat universally. The words being said in this melodic sound could be heard in different ways. Is it about drugs or a woman? That's the same thing, isn't it? Some people in a relationship, that's their addiction."
During a show, though, there's no time for the audience to dissect every line, and the energy of Hammond's music is heightened. In a smaller space like Summit Music Hall's Moon Room, it's all the better. Don't miss it.