Ramonda Hammer’s debut album I Never Wanted Company immediately invites you to experience the feelings of the album with them. Despite always sounding relatable, there is never any sense of pandering to a listener. Demonstrating a mastery of balancing opposites, it walks a tightrope. Soft vocals are emphasized over loud instrumentation. Soft guitars intersperse the heavy basslines and loud drumming throughout the tracks. Though I Never Wanted Company is no-frills rock with all the thrashing you would expect, to only describe it as such would be a disservice. There is a mystical quality to it from the frequent changes in mood and excellent vocals that keeps each track and the album interesting.
Sometimes biting, other times reflective, the vocals are always clear and placed over steady beats and riffs. The vocals’ range lays down the tone for the album. As the album masterfully balances opposites sonically, it does the same thematically. Holding opposite emotions in tension is the overwhelming takeaway from the album. Tracks fluctuate between introspection and lashing out against someone else. Exploring feelings of bitterness, anger, confusion, loneliness, and determination, I Never Wanted Company is a relatable listen. The songs take time to explore genuine feelings and the vocals always seem authentic to the emotions.
It is impossible to separate this album from the band’s Los Angeles roots. The sprawl of the city with its congested freeways joining the distant neighborhoods is felt throughout a listen. There is a frustration in all the songs that is similar to what is felt when moving through the city. Sometimes the songs feel like they are going nowhere right up to the point that they open up and leave you wondering how you could have doubted you would ever move again. Like Los Angeles itself, the songs are a little grittier underneath each initial appearance. The clarity of the vocals gives way to a harsh edge that is hiding just below the surface. The grittiness found throughout the album gives it power.
Though mostly a good listen, the end of I Never Wanted Company feels unsatisfying. “Everlasting Love,” slower and quieter than most of the other tracks, feels wrong as the last track. It is slow, contemplative but the time for reflection is over by the end of the album. It seems to be a weird way to wrap up the album and is a let down from the energy of the album. Despite the problems the last song, I Never Wanted Company has many other excellent songs. “Better View,” “Who’s the Narcissist?,” “Relativity,” and “A Dramatization” are all songs that illustrate the virtues of the album. Mixing moods and tempos with a little bit of bite and edge give the songs power. The power is felt throughout the other tracks but not as well as the listed tracks.