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Nick Hakim - WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD Music Album Reviews

The Brooklyn musician stretches the boundaries of his psychedelic soul sound, yielding a record that alternates between hypnotic and languorous.

Nick Hakim’s compulsively listenable debut album, 2017’s Green Twins, drew from Curtis Mayfield and D’Angelo while adding twists of beat music and psychedelia. His follow-up, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD, stirs some Parliament/Funkadelic and Sly and the Family Stone into the mix, but the result may frustrate his fans. This time around, Hakim’s tracks are shapeless, often listless, building tension only to let it ebb away. The new record doesn’t just reward close attention; it barely exists without it. Hakim has said that “If I really sink into a recording, I don’t want it to end.” It feels safe to say that he sank into most of the recordings on Will This Make Me Good, and the result can feel endless.
But there are many worthwhile moments here, even if they’re blunted by an exhausting run time. WTMMG is definitively a headphone record, and it reveals itself slowly, sometimes on an instrument-by-instrument basis. The drums on “Qadir,” Hakim’s gorgeous lament for a friend who died at the age of 25, steal up on you; they’re fairly wonderful. The guitar chords on “All These Instruments” are catchy. In the opening of “Bouncing,” a bassline and a chorus of spectral voices come together and combust in a moment of excitement. Listening to the record becomes an exercise in prying its many beautiful moments from their duller surroundings.
 
“Crumpy,” buried in the album’s back half, is its strongest song, and it’s not a coincidence that it sounds a lot like the tracks on Green Twins. (Hakim said in an Instagram post that it was recorded sometime between 2017 and 2018.) It is, more than anything else here, a song, and its opening lines have more character than anything on the record: “This town has really started to grow on me/My face has become one with the concrete.” In a gesture that expresses a fundamental reluctance at the core of this album, the lyrics on the title track, a meditation on morality and radicalism that should be one of the more compelling songs here, are distorted and difficult to hear.

In a tweet announcing the album, Hakim appended a note that explained a little bit more about its origin. He said that he had been experiencing writer’s block, but that the blockage had been “a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album.” Still, he confessed, he was “still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or it’s messy—that’s fine.” Credit Hakim for his self-awareness and his candor. But the people who told him that were right. WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD has plenty of gorgeous moments. Those moments will inspire the most generous listeners to wonder what this record could have been, if Hakim had given it more time to gestate, and maybe edited himself more.
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