Music is renowned for its ability to evoke emotions, memories, sensations. Yet it’s hard to think of music that gives a contact high as powerful as Nick Hakim’s. And although his 2016 debut, “Green Twins,” was a stoner-soul classic, his latest, “Will This Make Me Good,” is actually even trippier.
Hakim’s music occupies a realm between R&B and jam-band-adjacent rock — while he’s not big on long solos or other trademarks/stereotypes of the latter genre, there’s definitely an affinity in vibe. It’s often hazy, soft-lit and atmospheric, with slowed-down Parliament-Funkadelic-esque melodies, D’Angelo-ish multi-tracked vocals and flashes of Shuggie Otis. And he’s doubled down on the production, wafting even further out with woozy tempos, deep echo and effects that often evoke classic reggae dub music from the ‘70s and ‘80s.
However, it’s not all like that — several songs are in tight singer-songwriter focus — and more to the point, the subject matter of many of the songs not the least bit laid-back. While the lyrics can be a challenge to understand, “Qadir,” one of the more direct songs, is about the death of a close friend, and another, “All These Instruments,” has basically a call-and-response on the chorus (“All these instruments/ Hold strange powers”).
Hakim himself says as much in the press materials accompanying the album. “I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here — or you won’t.
“But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out,” he continues. “People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either.”
Indeed. After all, art is what the beholder brings to it, and most artists know that when they put something into the world, they’re forsaking some control over how it is perceived. With that in mind, listeners are advised that there is some darkness lurking in the seemingly loose and woozy grooves of “Will This Make Me Good.”