Francis Trouble // Albert Hammond Jr.
“Can’t you see between the lines?” Strokes-guitarist-gone-solo Albert Hammond Jr. croons on the first track of his newest and most thematically personal record, Francis Trouble. “DvsL” opens up the record with an upbeat sound and song structure, simultaneously matched with a challenged topic: family. Jr. confronts head on, a sense of distaste or disdain for family structures and the ways in which they fundamentally alter one’s personhood. This song sets the tone of the record to come, receiving its name from Hammond’s twin brother who died in a miscarriage—only Albert survived. Hammond matches the overarching theme of the record with his lyrics, leaving small room for improper interpretation.
In the hook of “Far Away Truths,” Hammond sings, “Everything you hide between the lines is just another giveaway,” as if he’s singing it in a mirror to himself. Intentional or not, Hammond has aptly matched the content with the message: our relationality with others changes the course of our lives—our efforts to hide this truth are thinly veiled. “We’re finally close when you first walk away,” another lyric from “Far Away Truths,” brings to mind personal feelings towards familial distances and the ways in which spending time is a painful reminder of who I want to be and the things about my personality that I cannot avoid.
My personal favorite off the record by far is “Tea for Two,” a song about love lost and the desire to make a fading relationship work. Hammond sings, “Is there something that you're looking for? / It's hard to tell when your ear's against the door / Nice shot, old flame / Can't stop, but nothing lasts forever.” To be honest, these lyrics, this song, sucker-punched me right in the gut. We’ve surely all felt this way. I know I have. Trying to piece together the remnants of a fragmented relationship because it’s easier than letting go entirely is something I feel inherently comes with one’s coming of age. Both Hammond and I confront these truths—him poetically and poignantly musically, me listening to it and crying on the bus. These lyrics can apply to all kinds of life’s relationships; romantic, familial, friendly.
I love music in which lyrics and sounds cannot be separated. I have never been able to listen to songs for enjoyment without considering lyrics and content. Hammond hits it out of the ballpark with this record in that he leaves no margin of separation for the two. The songs are beautiful: simple pieces of beautifully guitar-driven music. Their ability to simultaneously tackle some of the hardest-hitting stuff we all experience but aren’t sure how to verbalize is what makes it special to me.
Hammond is an incredibly talented musician. He proved himself worthy as one of two guitarists in The Strokes. He continued to prove himself worthy with previous solo work, such as 2006’s Como Té Llama? and 2015’s Momentary Masters. It’s no surprise that this is my favorite piece of work of his by far. His impeccable ability to be real about the things that matter has made for a solid album, and a contender for my favorite of 2018 so far.