“In Transit” – Albert Hammond, Jr.

With a name that sounds surely like he must be some rough-and-tumble Delta bluesman, Hammond is, rather, simply the guitarist in the Strokes—oh, and also the son of the guy who co-wrote the ’70s hits “It Never Rains in Southern California” and “The Air That I Breathe.” Neither of those connections, however, set the stage for this chimey, brightly-paced, instantly likeable song. While the sharp guitar lines are reminiscent of something you’d hear from the Strokes, the vibe is lighter, airier, and poppier. Hammond betrays an unexpected affinity for ELO (there are moments when his voice in fact sounds eerily like Jeff Lynne’s), complete with that old band’s penchant for sky- and space-oriented sounds and imagery. Listen here how the melody in the verse seems literally to float in space above the double-time background; then in the chorus, the idea of floating in space is accentuated by those Star Trek synthesizers. (Hammond sings about how he “went too far” just as the background implies “where no man has gone before”: cute.) “In Transit” is the lead track from Yours To Keep–the first solo album released by any member of the Strokes. The CD was released back in October in the U.K. (where the band have always been huge); the U.S. release is slated for March, on New Line Records. The MP3 comes from the New Line site, via Filter.

“Chemicals for Criminals” – Manic

After a short atmospheric recording studio noodle, this one leaps out of the speakers with remarkable assurance for a new band. We get an incisive melody, a strong, sly beat, and ringing guitars shot through with a hint of dissonance, all held together by singer Paul Gross’s full-throttled delivery that, like the song itself, manages to combine indie spunk with the sort of blazing poise one expects from an arena band. This is one of those unusual songs where the hook comes at you in the first line of the verse: that melody is the centerpiece of the song, and as often as it’s repeated, it manages to continually engage me. Maybe it’s the octave harmonies (gotta love those octave harmonies); maybe it’s the fact that it’s based on the same notes as “Whistle While You Work.” “Chemicals for Criminals” is a song off this L.A. foursome’s debut release, Floor Boards, a five-song EP on Suretone Records that came out last week. The MP3 is via Suretone.

“Girl in a Tree” – the Young Republic

Back we go to the Young Republic, and back we go to that resonant two-chord progression I wrote about a few weeks ago. This time it’s supported with this marvelous Boston band’s vivid and inventive instrumental sensibility: we get a variety of strings, we get a flute, and I think a trumpet, and maybe a tambourine and a mandolin? The eight members of the Young Republic are classically trained and obviously play and think like a true ensemble, but instead of being subsumed by an actual orchestra (in which you don’t hear, for example, a single violin as often as “violins”—a different sound), they play in a setting in which each voice can be heard distinctly. The perky way the two central chords are presented in the intro, on a sprightly variety of dueling stringed instruments, is but one example. And let not the sophisticated musicianship allow us to lose sight of another of the band’s primary assets, which is singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist Julian Saporiti, whose textured ache of a voice recalls an earthier version of Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch. “Girl in a Tree” is a song from the band’s most recent release, YR7, which yup is their seventh release; the MP3 is via the band’s site.




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