The term "neo soul" gets thrown around a lot, a broad descriptor applied to anything ranging from D'Angelo to a certain kind of fedora-invoking, preciously retro pop. But New York-by-way-of-DC singer Nick Hakim captures the style in a simpler sense: It's the unadorned, oft-fraught core of soul, seeped into unorthodox production influences and techniques. Together, it amounts to a sound all Hakim's own, a look inside his head that gets into your own instead.
Hakim pushes that further on his debut full-length Green Twins, the follow-up to his breakout Where Will We Go Pt. I & II EPs. The project, due out May 19 via ATO, is ambitious in scope while maintaining the kind of raw, pared down feel that set apart his earlier work.
"We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album," Hakim said about the album. "We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green's Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib, and Screaming Jay Hawkins."
The record's title track, premiering on Noisey below, is a surreal introduction to that experiment. It's a little hip-hop and a lot of psych, with a crescendo that pivots on dissonance. As with its first single "Bet She Looks Like You," "Green Twins" offers some throwback touches—lo-fi drums and what just might be a theremin—but they feel more for emphasis than affect, with Hakim mulling over past choices, paths taken, and new lives. "We could've moved to LA," he sings. "If I had it my way / We would've stayed where we started."
Here's what Hakim had to tell Noisey about the song:
"I had a dream where we were walking down the road in JP (Jamaica Plain, MA) and two little green babies were running around the side walk. There was a crash behind us. As we walk away, we look back and the twins had been run over by a car. The babies were made out of some green jello texture. This dream happened three times. This song was the starting point for this project. It was written around the same month that a child was to be born (October 2013)."
Listen to the premiere of Nick Hakim's "Green Twins" and check out the album's cover art below. You can pre-order Green Twins here.
TOUR DATES --
Apr 19 The Dome - London, UK (Sold Out)
Apr 20 Le Pop Up du Label - Paris, FR
Apr 21 Brussels, BE - Chez PIAS
Apr 22 Studio 672 - Cologne, DE
Apr 23 Bitterzoet - Amsterdam, NL
Apr 25 Berghain Kantine - Berlin, DE
May 11 The Drake Hotel - Toronto, ON
May 12 Bar Le Ritz PBD - Montréal, QC
May 13 Brighton Music Hall - Boston, MA
May 14 Iron Horse Music Hall - Northampton, MA
May 17 Bowery Ballroom - New York, NY
May 20 Rock & Roll Hotel - Washington, DC
Nov 7 The Lantern - Bristol
Nov 8 KOKO - London, UK
Nov 9 The Deaf Institute – Manchester, UK
Nov 10 King Tut's – Glasgow, UK
Nov 11 Brudenell Social Club – Leeds, UK
Andrea Domanick is Noisey's West Coast Editor. Follow her on Twitter.