Three years after the release of his blissful, soul-stirring debut album ‘Green Twins’, Nick Hakim has returned with an even bolder artistic statement, ‘WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’. Hakim’s sound on ‘Green Twins’ was warm and intimate: he blended hushed soul atmospherics with rounded psychedelic ripples and did it through the lens of thoroughly modern playlist-pop. He presented himself as the perfect modern songwriter – showing deference and paying homage to greats of the past, while still holding on to an intrinsic uniqueness that differentiates him from his peers.
With ‘WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’, Hakim has successfully subverted the expectations of his listeners. While the record does still have an impeccable, thoughtfully constructed sound, it is preoccupied with the most pressing questions of modern life – what are we going to do about global warming, the overmedication of society and our collective inability to express love and compassion? This existential dread colours how Hakim has these tracks sound, has this album feel, so that it’s impossible to listen to the album and not see the artistic maturation Hakim has gone through since his first record dropped.
‘ALL THESE CHANGES’ opens the album with a stark, elegant statement. It sounds huge, and more than slightly sinister, as though it were recorded in an empty cathedral at night. The hymnal solemnity of the lyrics, which imagine New York sunken by the effects of global warming, are troubling and sincere. The title track has rough, sharp edges thanks in no small part to an oppressive electronic fuzz-cloud sitting over the entire thing. It’s a brash, confrontational move from an artist you’d have most commonly associated with platitudes and incense-scented chilled out vibes.
‘BOUNCING’ returns us to Hakim’s soul sound but does so with a hint of the same aggression that colours the title track. The presentation and delivery of these tracks is comparable to how Childish Gambino swapped out warm and inviting funk on ‘Awaken, My Love!’ for electric-shocked mania on ‘3.15.20’, showing that no matter how grounded and in control an artist is, the world can still get to you in surprising ways.
‘QADIR’ is the centrepiece of the album, both literally and metaphorically. It contains all the themes present on the rest of the record, and communicates them via the most seductive nocturnal grooves of Hakim’s entire career. When asked to explain the track, Hakim’s cryptic response ran thus: “There seems to be a complexity to being kind to your space, to your temple, to your neighbours, and seeing changes. Without changes some of us wear masks to hide our pain, you are not alone, and I am not alone.” Quite.
‘SEEING DOUBLE’ and ‘WHOO’ are both stately, widescreen tracks that bring the album to a close in a resplendent manner. The glorious, echoing soundscapes seem to occupy a space much larger than anything on Hakim’s first record, and seem geared towards larger venues (will we ever see live music again?). Not all of the album works. ‘DRUM THING’ and ‘VINCENT TYLER’ have a first-take simplicity that just doesn’t flow with some of the more thoughtful material. ‘CRUMPY’ is also slightly too self-involved (one man’s paean to himself?) to fit in with the wider, society-driven concerns of the rest of the record.
From a personal perspective, I’d found it hard to connect with Hakim’s first album, and found it a little too anodyne and insipid to truly warrant repeated listens – but there are no such qualms here. ‘WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’ is aggressive in its own way, and more sincere and honest than I’d expected it to be. Modern music can often be accused of being so predictable and so formulaic that you’d be forgiven for expecting Hakim to churn out a new record without taking a hint of a ghost of a chance – but ‘WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’ is a thrilling, timely reminder that true art shines brightest when it emerges from the darkest skies.
Words: Ross Horton
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