Nick Hakim has no filter. Similar to the way that the musician carries a casual conversation, he overflows with a creative energy that effortlessly pours out of him. Since 2013, he has demonstrated that his talent can’t be contained within the restrictions of categorization. Hakim’s critically-acclaimed debut album, Green Twins, solidified his status as a versatile artist pushing the boundaries of genre and embracing fluidity between R&B, soul, indie, psychedelia and more. From there, he proceeded to link up with the likes of Erykah Badu, Anderson .Paak, BADBADNOTGOOD, Mac DeMarco, Onyx Collective and many others.
Whereas Hakim’s sophomore album, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD, was the release of a blockage that came out at the height of the pandemic as everyone was struggling to stay grounded, COMETA sees the artist on the other side of that emotional roller coaster as he transcends to the next realm of his musical universe. Instead of tuning the world out and turning inward, Hakim invites the listener to embrace a newfound sense of clarity that he’s found. Since he was transitioning into the life of a nomad throughout 2021, the album was recorded between recording studios and domestic spaces throughout Texas, North Carolina, California, and New York. To build the foundation of this intricate soundscape, Hakim teamed up with his longtime collaborator, producer/mixing engineer Andrew Sarlo.
COMETA is truly a collaborative effort and the highlight for Hakim is having so many special guests from his community that play supportive roles–this talented roster of peers includes Alex G, Isaiah Barr, and DJ Dahi. Hakim refers to the bassist Kyle Myles as the glue that has held his musical life together for the past decade along with the pianist Jake Sherman, drummer Vishal Nayak, and guitarists Joe Harrison and Dylan Day. “Happen” includes Abe Rounds on drums and Alex G on piano, and “Slid Under” features Helado Negro on synths. Hakim’s younger brother, Danny Hakim, wrote the chords for “Perfume,” a sweet song about falling in love with someone’s scent, which he also plays acoustic guitar on.
The album title is the Spanish translation of “kite,” which is a symbol for elevation in Hakim’s personal life. He sees this as a really beautiful way to speak about feeling uplifted and gravitating toward the idea of being in your own orbit while everything else floats around you like comets in space. Hakim points to a specific lyric from “Happen” that fully encapsulates this concept: “A supernova/ Exploded and changed my world.”
COMETA is a collection of romantic songs that explore various iterations of love that are guided by the full scope of Hakim’s own personal experiences from the mutual love he shares with his community to embracing self-love and falling in love with someone in a way that made him feel like he was floating. “The common thread is I’m lucky to have a support system and love not just in a romantic way, but in friendship with the people that I have around me,” he explains. “It’s really about different lenses looking at moments where I felt captivated and then in moments where I was trying to tap into how someone else might have felt or how I wish I felt sometimes.”
This dizzying outer body sensation is another theme that anchors the album as Hakim uses the extreme distance between a kite and a comet as a metaphor for the depth of one’s love for someone else and being so humbled by it. After spending time reflecting on the misguided path of seeking validation from others, what he’s ultimately learned is that you lose parts of yourself in the process. “The key is to find that extremity of love for yourself,” Hakim says. “It’s about growing into someone you want to be; it’s about finding pure love within yourself when the world around us seems to be crumbling.”
But for Hakim, the purpose of this project is less about constructing a narrative around a surface level version of romance and more about curating a vibe through 10 complex compositions woven with aching metaphors. While there are special memories attached to each track, he prefers to leave them open to interpretation, offering the listener a comfortable space to develop their own connections to the music. “I think it’s nice to have love in your life and to have people that are sharing and wanting that,” Hakim adds. “It’s my interpretation of a really romantic way to express love in my own way.”
Whether he’s finding an interesting modulation or improvising chords on top of bass notes, Hakim is always experimenting with his sonic palette. COMETA opens with the song “Ani,” a nickname for Hakim’s mother, which features his mentor Arto Lindsay on 12 string electric guitar. Other tracks like “Something” and “M1” capture the pure essence of Hakim having fun while getting into his groove.
“Feeling Myself,” which takes cues from Iggy Pop and David Bowie’s “The Idiot,” is where Hakim really puts himself out there and takes a brief departure from his usual somber tone as he hypes himself up in the lyrics. It’s one of the most confident songs that he’s ever written to date. As he further explains, “I’ve never really written anything that’s like that in terms of the personas. Where I’m coming from is always conversationational like I’m talking to someone… I’m being nice to myself and the energy boosting around is confidence and loving yourself in a way that you haven’t really felt in a long time.”
Refraining from revealing too much, he recalls how the closing track “Market,” a slow-burning ballad that is so steamy it would set off a smoke detector, manifested from spending his nights at a studio upstate in the Catskills staring into a fire. “Vertigo” was the first track recorded for the album and directly borrows inspiration from Stevie Wonder as Hakim layers synths on top of each other to depict the dizzying sensation of trying to stay focused on someone when it feels like the world around you is spinning. “Darlin, time seems to slow down, when you’re near me/ Spinnin, fast as hell can’t tell if it’s me or the room that’s moving/ Spinnin fast as hell can’t tell what’s moving,” he sings in the first verse.
Of all the instruments that he has mastered over the years, Hakim believes that singing is his strongest. When you listen to COMETA, it’s very clear that Hakim challenged himself as a vocalist as he seamlessly guides the listener through every song. While the presentation of his work is important, more than anything, Hakim wants the music to speak for itself. Without a doubt, it most certainly does. “I’m not making conceptual records, I’m reflecting in the moment,” he says. “Every single record that I’ve made is just a reflection of feeling into a certain space and dealing with beautiful and really difficult things that we all deal with. I’m just trying to observe things, create them, and make them into songs. I also just really love instruments, they have their own language, and I feel like it’s so fucking interesting… I would not know what I would be doing if it wasn’t for this.”
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