Albert Hammond Jr. Momentary Masters on 180g LP + Download
Momentary Masters is the third solo album, and first in five years, from Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. Recorded in Hammond Jr.'s home in upstate New York in a converted barn he calls One Way Studios, the album's name derives from a phrase in astronomer Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space - a notion that underscores the truism that every triumph is fleeting.
“I feel like the best songs I’ve written, as soon as I was done, I was like, “Oh my God, I did it!’ But in that split second that it comes, that feeling goes,” Albert Hammond Jr. explains. “It’s the same thing when you find complete happiness, you find this complete low. I feel like that’s what being creative is: It’s you bouncing with emotion and what you capture in those bounces. Accept where you are and use it.”
Many years have passed since the release of his two solo records, 2006’s Yours to Keep and 2008’s ¿Cómo Te Llama?, and truthfully, the person who created those songs is in a very different place now. Back then Hammond Jr. was swept up in a whirlwind, one-fifth of The Strokes, indulging in an intoxicating cocktail of excess and all-consuming romances.
The kernels of this new full length began with his five-song strong EP, AHJ, released on Julian Casablancas’ label, Cult Records, back in October 2013. AHJ showcased a bolder stance, his vocals are deeper, pulled to the fore, with less effects applied, each song is anchored by a more muscular rhythm section. Crucially, his approach to music has shifted; he’s flipped the page.
This time around his compositions were more sharply honed, fired by a desire to write and rework his music until he was 100 percent satisfied. Additionally these songs were brought into focus with the help of Grammy-winning producer Gus Oberg - who’s worked extensively with The Strokes and happens to be one of Hammond Jr.’s closest friends; he was the album’s benevolent taskmaster.
Initial sessions for Momentary Masters began as a three-day stint in June 2014, an experimental getaway to test the water with his new band. Having established a solid unit touring the AHJ EP, he was keen to see how Hammarsing Kharhmar (the frontman of Mon Khmer; who’s been playing guitar with Hammond Jr. since 2008), guitarist Mikey Hart (Bleachers), bassist Jordan Brooks, and drummer Jeremy Gustin (Delicate Steve, Marc Ribot), would work together on his new material.
It was the summer camp-style environment that encouraged space for creativity and collaboration, which continued when they returned in September to lay down the rest of the record. (Apart from Bob Dylan cover, “Don’t Think Twice” which, with addition of a few overdubs, remains largely in its original, bedroom-demoed form.) The result offers a new kind of dynamism: you can hear it in “Power Hungry,” with its Morricone-esque grooves and a Mellotron manipulated to sound like violins; or in the aggressive stomp and anxiety-inducing guitars of “Caught By My Shadow.” Even on “Side Boob” there’s a jittery energy that leaves the listener excited.
For Hammond Jr. there’s an unwavering thrill in creation and completion, and a hunger too for what’s next. Momentary Masters may be concerned with the duality of the human condition, and the recognition that life with all its peaks, plateaus, and lows is a mere blip - “enjoy the weirdness, because it’s all so fleeting” - but ultimately, in these succinct rock songs he’s communicated something that will morph in meaning through time, both to himself and to those who are listening.
Albert Hammond Jr. Momentary Masters Track Listing:
1. Born Slippy
2. Power Hungry
3. Caught by my Shadow
4. Coming to Getcha
5. Losing Touch
6. Don't Think Twice
7. Razors Edge
9. Drunched In Crumbs
10. Side Boob