Nick Hakim, the Brooklyn-based singer and multi-instrumentalist, follows the success of Green Twins (2017) with his second studio effort WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD. While his debut record more directly channeled a classic R&B sound, this latest release from Hakim ventures into territories of psychedelic funk, perhaps influenced by sounds Thundercat has pioneered. He also allows for more influences of neo-soul and electronica. This is a more intentionally challenging project than its predecessor.
“Pretty soon we’ll be drifting in the ocean, and we’ll grow scabs so we can breathe,” Hakim poignantly articulates on the opening “ALL THESE CHANGES”, a visceral reflection on the global climate crisis. As a production choice, Hakim’s gentle voice is pushed discernibly back in the mix, washed over heavily in reverb, which feels symbolic to the impressionistic subject matter. “WTMMG” is characterised by crumbling distortion. The densely murky sound is overly textured to a fault, allowing for very little detail to breathe.
On “BOUNCING”, Hakim allows for subtle melodic shifts to glide over a fixed, minimalist chord progression. A jazzy bassline and relaxed guitar work meets glitchy electronic effects to give the track a trip-hop lite feel. Following the atmospheric interlude “LET IT OUT”, Hakim comes through with “QADIR”, the most complete track on the album. It’s a tender ode to his late friend. Backed by colourful percussion, Hakim’s vocals are brought with with the most clarity, backed with some lovely harmonic assistance from KeiyaA, Pink Siifu, and Oyinda.
Co-written with his brother Danny, “ALL THESE INSTRUMENTS” is a bit of a tonal shift for the record, prominently featuring some catchy acoustic guitar work. It leans heavily into its hazy, drugged out exterior. Following this is the album’s most obvious misstep. The track is structured with brash electronics which wouldn’t be too alien to fans of Oneohtrix Point Never. Coupled with patient keys, there was the potential for something really interesting here. Ultimately, however, the instrumental arrangement is left undercooked, and the trite lyricism doesn’t help.
Single “VINCENT TYLER” speaks to the 2007 killing of Taylor in Hakim’s home of Washington D.C. “Matthew claims he heard gunshots in the morning,” Hakim begins the narrative in clear detail. Vocal lines drift on top of one another over fractured drums and synth feedback, producing a tastefully disorienting effect.
Mac DeMarco’s presence is astutely felt on “CRUMPY”, his guitar work giving the tune its distinct aloofness. With a velvety vocal performance, Hakim details his inner response to change, specifically a move. “My face has become one with the concrete,” he sings, speaking to human’s tendency to viscerally identify with places in time.
“GODS DIRTY WORK”, whilst one of the record’s most easily agreeable tracks, is also one of its least interesting. The simple grooves are hardly memorable. Overall, it’s a very cut-and-paste soul ballad. This is in contrast to the deceptively understated “SEEING DOUBLE”. While presenting itself as easy-listening, it is full of intricate detail. Vishal Nayak, heavy on the cymbals, gives a hypnotic drum performance. Likewise, the bass work from Spencer Murphy is equally enchanting.
With bright soundscapes, “WHOO” delights in its sweet simplicity, like some of the most classic R&B tracks have done. “I’m so proud that we’re here,” Hakim sings. “And you poured me a glass of precious wine you kept sealed in the back of your mind.” He has escaped in a moment of romantic bliss, seeming to forget time before and after.
While WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD has its share of strong moments, the mixing gets in the way at times. With the over-fattened production on numerous cuts, it’s hard to really find something to grasp on to. Sadly, this will probably serve as a transition record, one that is lacking an identity. Hakim doesn’t know if he’s going for a stirring soul record or a project that pushes the walls of provocative, noisy psychedelia.