Category: Soul Music

New Audio: The Rosebuds and Gayngs Frontman Howard Ivans Returns with a Sultry and Soulful New Single from Long-Awaited Solo Debut

Perhaps best known for being the frontman of The Rosebuds and Gayngs, Howard Ivans stepped away from his primary gigs to write and record the “Red Face Boy”/”Pillows” 7 inch through Richmond, VA-based indie label Spacebomb Records  — and if you were familiar with his work with his primary projects, Ivans’ solo work has a bold and decided change in sonic direction with his solo sound leaning heavily towards a sultry blue eyed soul reminiscent of The Righteous Brothers, Michael McDonald/Michael McDonald-era Doobie Brothers and Hall and Oates while nodding at 70s AM pop; in fact, Ivans once recorded a song-by-song remake of Sade’s Love Deluxe.

Now, four years have passed since I’ve last written about Ivans and if there’s one thing that’s true in the blogosphere age, it’s this — four years is an eternity. But interestingly enough Ivans long-awaited Trey Pollard and Cameron Ralston co-produced solo debut Beautiful Tired Bodies is slated for a September 22, 2017 release through Spacebomb Records, and as Ivans explains in press notes, while he could have recorded the album’s material at any point over the past four years, he felt very strongly that it just wouldn’t be the same without the Spacebomb Records house band, so he waited until everyone was available at the same time.

Beautiful Tired Bodies’ latest single “Come On” will further cement both Ivans and Spacebomb Records’ growing reputation for deliberately crafted, sultry pop that simultaneously nods at 70s AM pop and Quiet Storm soul and much like the sources that inspired it, at the heart of “Come On” is the vulnerable, aching, sensual need of a broken man, desperately seeking the electric touch of a lover — right now without delay. But along with that, the song’s narrator is making a plea to open himself up more, to be more vulnerable in the face of love. Such sentiment is rare; but it’s rare because it comes from a truly adult perspective.

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Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about Gabriel Garzón-Montano, a critically applauded Brooklyn-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who has seen a rapidly growing national and international profile for a genre-defying take on contemporary soul and pop, as his work draws from Bach, cumbia, 70s funk and soul and the wildly, adventurous sort of multiculturalism familiar to native New Yorkers. And as Garzón-Montano has publicly mentioned, his mother, who was a member of the Philip Glass Ensemble in the 1990s may arguably be one of the biggest influences on his work and his creative process as her rigorous, classical instruction and her painstaking attention to detail, have greatly influenced him and his own creative endeavors.

Now, as you may recall, Garzón-Montano’s long-awaited full-length effort Jardín was released earlier this year and it comes on the heels of a three year period of rather intense touring, writing, revising and recording that interestingly enough began with his 2014 debut EP Bishouné: Alma del Hula, which caught the attention of Lenny Kravitz, who then invited the Brooklyn-born-and-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter to open for him during his European tour that year. Adding to the growing attention around him, Garzón-Montano’s “6 8” was sampled on Drake‘s If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late, which led to tours with Glass Animals and with his renowned Stones Throw Records labelmate JOVM mainstay and personal favorite, Mayer Hawthorne.

Jardín was recorded with his mentor, analog recording guru Henry Hirsch at Waterfront Studios in Hudson, NY last year and during the recording sessions Garzón-Montano tracked drums, bass, guitar, piano and synths directly to 2-inch tape, and then added percussion, digital programming and several layers of his own vocals to create the album’s overall lush sound — a sound that reportedly nods at Stevie Wonder’Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants. “I wanted to make music that would remind people how beautiful life is – how delicate their hearts are. A garden is full of life, and growth, and beauty. I named the album Jardín hoping for it to create a space for healing when people put it on. I’ve always wanted to make music that is healing, comforting, and funky,” Garzón-Montano explained in press notes. Naturally,  our current sociopolitical climate has influenced a great deal of the material on the album, as thematically it focuses on the struggles and uncertainties of living in America but it’s balanced our by its equal focus on the complications and joys of love.

Of course, I’ve written about a couple of singles off the album, including “Crawl,” a single which effortlessly meshed hip-hop, 90s neo-soul and contemporary pop with a slick production featuring ambient synths, twinkling keys, a wobbling bass line, tweeter and woofer rattling beats and a sharp, swaggering hook; and “My Balloon,” a single that continued on a similar vein while tinged with the aching regret of a confusing and uncertain relationship with someone who isn’t quite on the same emotional or mental space as you are. And although the song’s narrator seems to proudly suggest that he’ll be glad to move on his with life, there’s a sense that it’s nothing more than wounded pride, and underneath that, he’s aware of the fact that he’ll have to live with the lingering ghosts of what could have been and what should have been with this particular person.

“Sour Mango,” Jardin‘s latest single is slow-burning, swaggering and soulful track which features Garzón-Montano’s sultry vocals over a jagged production featuring shuffling beats, twinkling keys, wobbling synths; but just underneath the surface, there’s a vulnerability and ache over a love that would be unlikely; love after all, doesn’t make much sense and it frequently hurts more time than anyone would care to admit.  Recently Seven Davis, Jr. remixed “Sour Mango” and while retaining some elements of the jagged production, there’s a greater emphasis on hot bursts of keys,  some reverb on Garzón-Montano’s vocals and a subtle atmospheric vibe. And while still being a swaggering yet slow-burning song, Seven Days, Jr.’s remix is a subtle yet noticeable take on the song that purposely retains the song’s nuanced emotion.

New Audio: Nature Sounds Re-Issues a Late and Under-Appreciated Soul Classic

The Exciters were a Queens, NY-based R&B and soul quartet that could actually trace their origins to when its founding members Brenda Reid (lead vocals), Carolyn “Carol” Johnson (vocals), Lillian Walker (vocals) and Sylvia Wilbur (voclas) formed an all-girl vocal act, The Masterettes as a sister group to another local act The Masters in 1961. As The Masterettes, Reid, Johnson, Walker and Wilbur released their first single “Follow the Leader” in early 1962; however, Wilbur left shortly after the single’s release and was replaced with Penny Carter. And with their new member The Masterettes auditioned for renowned songwriting and production duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, eventually winning a recording contract. Shortly after the contract was signed Carter left and was replaced by The Masters’ Herb Rooney, who later married Reid, and of course with the addition of Rooney, the quartet officially changed their name to The Exciters.

As The Exciters, the Queens-based R&B/soul quartet rose to national prominence with their 1962 smash hit “Tell Him,” which landed at number 4 on the US pop charts. The act continued to release well-regarded music for several years, including 1969’s Caviar and Chitlins through RCA Records, during what may be one of the most important, influential and commercially successful periods of the genre’s history. Coincidentally, some years later The Exciters’ Rooney would go on to write and produce Melvin Bliss’ Synthetic Substitution, which is arguably one of the more sampled albums in hip-hop.

Despite The Exciters’ relative success, Caviar and Chitlins had been out of print for several decades, until Brooklyn-based label Nature Sounds, a label that has released works from J. Dilla, Doom, Camp Lo and Masta Killa, recently released a vinyl re-issue, as well as the first digital release of the material ever. The re-issue’s first single is the sensual “Fight That Feelin,'” a song in which its narrator expresses that her desire for her lover has become insatiable, that her lover is much like a drug she can’t quit. And my goodness, this track should remind you of your parents soul collection and old episodes of Soul Train.

Live Footage: Thundercat feat. Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins Performing “Show You The Way” on “The Tonight Show”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you’d recall that the past two years or so have been both incredibly productive and prolific for the critically applauded  bassist, vocalist and JOVM mainstay Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner. He made guest appearances contributing bass and/or vocals to Kendrick Lamar‘s Grammy Award-winning To Pimp A Butterfly and  Brainfeeder Records labelmate, Kamasi Washington’s The Epic, and he followed that up by releasing what arguably may have been one of 2015’s best albums The Beyond/Where Giants Roam, an effort that I think further cemented his reputation as a dexterous bassist, who carefully walks a tightrope between jazz fusion, contemporary jazz and funk in a way that’s reminiscent of the late and great Jaco Pastorius — but while nodding at Stevie Wonder’s 70s and early 80s output, as it possessed a retro-futuristic sound. 

Last year, I wrote about “Bus In These Streets,” the first bit of music from the renowned bassist and vocalist in over a year, and the single was a comedic and playful ode to our reliance and dependence on technology in which Thundercat’s dexterous and sinuous bass lines with Louis Cole (keys, drums and programming) contributing shimmering and twinkling keys and propulsive drum programming and frequent collaborator Flying Lotus contributing more programming and editing in a song that evokes a dreamy, distracted self-absorption as the song’s narrator spends their time staring at their smartphone, not noticing the world pass him by — or the inherent danger he might be walking into as he stupidly stares into his phone.

Bruner’s third, full-length effort Drunk was released earlier this year and the album is reportedly an epic journey into the bizarre, hilarious and sometimes very dark mind of the singer/songwriter and bassist, and the effort find Bruner collaborating with an All-Star list of guests and friends including Kamasi Washington,  Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Pharrell Williams, Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. While the album will feature fan favorites “Bus In These Streets” and “Them Changes,”  Drunk‘s first official single “Show You The Way” is a sleek and soulfully jazzy track in which shimmering arpeggio cascades of synths, stuttering drums, and Bruner’s imitable bass lines are paired in an incredible collaboration that features Bruner’s sultry falsetto with the imitable vocals of Kenny Loggins and Micheal McDonald. Sonically speaking the song is an uncanny synthesis of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” and Bruner’s signature funky, retro-futuristic jazz fusion.

So how did such a high-powered collaboration come about? Thundercat has publicly mentioned his love of Loggins and his work during interviews to promote both The Beyond and the tour for the album — and it lead to his keyboardist Dennis Hamm introducing Bruner to Loggins. According to both Bruner and Hamm, Loggins then suggested bringing in Michael McDonald on the track. And as Bruner adds in press notes “I think one of the most beautiful moments of it was realizing how amazing Michael McDonald was. He would go through so many ideas and have so much to offer.” As for the song, Bruner says “That song to me is about going down the rabbit hole, taking you to another place . . . On the edge of dark, there’s the brightest light. It means a lot to me in the sense of . . .the experience that I’ve had growing up with friends and people that I’ve been around where it’s inventing them into where I come from emotionally. Sometimes it’s a pretty intense thing. The point is how weird things can get. ”

New Video: The Cosmic and Symbolic Visuals for Cody ChesnuTT’s “Image of Love”

With the release of his critically praised 2002 debut, The Headphone Masterpiece, singer/songwriter and guitarist Cody ChesnuTT was universally hailed as a modern-day soul troubadour with many critics comparing his work to the likes of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder, largely because of his frank and socially conscious songwriting focusing on modern Black life. Interestingly, The Headphone Masterpiece was released at the height of the neo-soul movement, which included Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, The Roots, Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and a lengthy list of others — all of whom proved that artists could still release deeply personal, thoughtful, socially conscious work that was fairly successful both critically and commercial successful. In the case of ChesnuTT, his closest brush with mainstream success was a collaborative remake of “The Seed,” “The Seed 2.0,” which appeared on The Roots’ Phrenology released at the end of 2002.

After the commercial and critically success of “The Seed,” ChesnuTT abruptly disappeared from public view for the better part of a decade, a period in which the singer/songwriter and guitarist spent time raising children and in writerly fashion, reflecting, observing, loving and living. Naturally, those experiences informed and influenced 2012’s Landing on a Hundred, an effort that linked contemporary Black soul and pop with the classic work of Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, as Hundred thematically focused on a man’s road to redemption after years of womanizing, drugging and scheming, of the power of a love that eclipses superficial and material expressions of love and devotion and of the power of being truthful to one’s self.

Since the release of Landing on a Hundred, ChesnuTT has been rather productive as he’s contributed to the soundtracks of the Oscar Award-winning major motion pictures 12 Years A Slave and Idris Elba Presents Mi Mandela, and writing the material that would comprise his recently released third album, My Love Divine Degree. Now, if you had been frequenting this site over the past year, you may recall that I wrote about My Love Divine Degree‘s second single “I Stay Ready” an uplifting call to positivity in the face of tremendous adversity — and while further cementing his reputation for crafting frank, earnest songs, the production work of Anthony “Twilite Tone” Khan, a BMI Award, Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and DJ, who has worked with Kanye West, Common, John Legend and Pusha T pushes sonic boundaries as it meshes beat-based hip-hop and soul.

The album’s latest single “Image of Love” continues in a similar vein as ChesnuTT’s soulful crooning is paired with a genre blurring production that features wobbling synths, big tweeter and woofer rattling beats and a slick hook in what may arguably be one of the funkiest and most hip-hop leaning songs ChesnuTT has released in several years. Interestingly, the single much like the material on the album is “inspired by a story of a Man and Woman that exercised their ability to rise about their arresting selfishness — to attain a higher level of communication — that they might willing share in the love of eternal life . . . all to simply win the hearts of men, woman and children to better things,” as ChesnuTT explains in press notes. And much like it’s preceding single, it’s a desperately needed bit of uplift in dark, fucked up times.

Featuring gorgeous, psychedelic and cosmic line animation by Konee Rok that includes Cody Chesnutt walking through the woods and the cosmos, playing his Gibson and singing, kids running and playing in the woods, while nodding at the album’s and song’s themes about the differences between selfish and superficial love, and the sort of love that truly connects you with others and the larger universe.

New Video: Righteously Protest with Old School Soul Legend Lee Fields in the New Visuals for “Make The World”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few years, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts featuring Lee Fields and The Expressions — and you might recall that Fields can trace the origins of his almost 50 year music career back to his earliest recorded efforts, released in 1969. And although he’s toured with several renowned funk and soul acts, including Kool and the Gang, O.V. Wright, Hip Huggers, and others, Fields has toiled in a bit of obscurity to most; however, he has been long known to obsessive and completetist record collectors, deep soul fans and those seeking ridiculously obscure yet funky grooves.

Interestingly, over the past 10-15 years or so, the classic soul sound has seen a remarkable resurgence with the likes of Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, the late, great Chuck Brown and others receiving the fame and attention that had up until recently proven to be elusive. And of course, along with that, there have been an increasing number of contemporary acts all over the world that have been employing that classic and beloved sound. In fact, with the release of 2009’s My World, 2012’s Faithful Man and 2014’s Emma Jean Fields joined by his latest backing band The Expressions won both the attention of the blogosphere and new fans, while pushing their sound and lyrics in new directions; in fact, Emma Jean featured a gorgeous and soulful cover of Leon Russell’s “Out In The Woods,” which also managed to evoke Fields’ own experience of arriving in the NYC area as a 17 year old with only $20 in his pocket and a desire to make a name for himself at all costs.

Fields’ fourth album with The Expressions, Special Night was released last November through Big Crown Records, and the album’s first single “Make The World,” is a stomping, early 70s James Brown-indebted bit of funk with a powerful and positive message that says we need to start getting our acts together, and uniting towards one purpose — getting things right or else we’ll be marching blindly towards our self-destruction. As Fields explains in press notes “The world was designed to last indefinitely. And we’re the only living species on Earth who can alter that process. I’m hoping that song has a chain reaction, helps somebody put into action whatever contribution they can to change what the world is going through.”

Directed by Kate Cunningham, the recently released video for “Make The World” begins with Fields and a small group of backing musicians, as well as a couple of subway performers performing the song at the Bedford Avenue L train stop while waiting for the train. We then see Fields and his band of musicians marching through the 14th Street and 6th Avenue and 14th Street and 7th Avenue stations with a directed and forceful purpose — they’re heading uptown to the Trump International Hotel and Tower at Columbus Circle, to join the President’s Day demonstrations, where they remind the protestors of why they’re there in the first place — to come together and change the world while making eerie parallels to the protests and demonstrations of the 1960s.

With the release of his critically praised 2002 debut, The Headphone Masterpiece, singer/songwriter and guitarist Cody ChesnuTT was universally hailed as a modern-day soul troubadour with many critics comparing his work to the likes of Marvin GayeCurtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder, largely because of his frank and socially conscious songwriting focusing on modern Black life. Interestingly, The Headphone Masterpiece was released at the height of the neo-soul movement, which included Erykah BaduJill Scott, The Roots, Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def,  and a lengthy list of others — all of whom proved that artists could still release deeply personal, thoughtful, socially conscious work that was fairly successful both critically and commercial successful.  In the case of ChesnuTT, his closest brush with mainstream success was a collaborative remake of “The Seed,” “The Seed 2.0,” which appeared on The Roots’ Phrenology released at the end of 2002.

After the commercial and critically success of “The Seed,” ChesnuTT abruptly disappeared from public view for the better part of a decade, a period in which the singer/songwriter and guitarist spent time raising children and in writerly fashion, reflecting, observing, loving and living. Naturally, those experiences informed and influenced 2012’s Landing on a Hundred, an effort that linked contemporary Black soul and pop with the classic work of  Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, as Hundred thematically focused on a man’s road to redemption after years of womanizing, drugging and scheming, of the power of a love that eclipses superficial and material expressions of love and devotion and of the power of being truthful to one’s self.

 

 

Since the release of Landing on a Hundred, ChesnuTT has been rather productive as he’s contributed to the soundtracks of  the Oscar Award-winning major motion pictures 12 Years A Slave and Idris Elba Presents Mi Mandelaand writing the material that would comprise his third, full-length effort, My Love Divine Degree slated for a June 2, 2017 release. Now, if you had been frequenting this site over the past year, you may recall that I wrote about My Love Divine Degree‘s second single “I Stay Ready” an uplifting call to positivity in the face of tremendous adversity — and while further cementing his reputation for crafting frank, earnest songs, the production work of  Anthony “Twilite Tone” Khan, a BMI Award, Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and DJ, who has worked with Kanye West, Common, John Legend and Pusha T pushes sonic boundaries as it meshes beat-based hip-hop and soul.

The album’s latest single “Image of Love” continues in a similar vein as ChesnuTT’s soulful crooning is paired with a genre blurring production that features wobbling synths, big tweeter and woofer rattling beats and a slick hook in what may arguably be one of the funkiest and most hip-hop leaning songs ChesnuTT has released in several years. Interestingly, the single  much like the material on the album is “inspired by a story of a Man and Woman that exercised their ability to rise about their arresting selfishness — to attain a higher level of communication — that they might willing share in the love of eternal life . . . all to simply win the hearts of men, woman and children to better things,” as ChesnuTT explains in press notes. And much like it’s preceding single, it’s a desperately needed bit of uplift in dark, fucked up times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: The Surreal and Gorgeous Visuals for Nick Hakim’s “Bet She Looks Like You”

Up until relatively recently, it had been some since I had written about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Nick Hakim; however, 2017 looks to be a big year for the renowned singer/songwriter as his much-anticipated full-length debut Green Twins is slated for a May 19, 2017 release through ATO Records — and if you had stumbled across this site earlier today, you’d remember that Hakim is currently on tour to build up buzz for the new material until its release.

Interestingly enough, as the story goes, Hakim can trace the origins of the material of Green Twins to when armed with the masters for his first two EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where Will We Go Part 2, the DC-born singer/songwriter and guitarist relocated from Boston, where he was based at the time to Brooklyn. And as soon as he got himself settled, he spent his spare time fleshing out incomplete songs and writing and recording sketches and lyrics using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder. He then took his new, demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

As Andrew Sarlo explained in press notes about the writing and recording process for Green Twins, for many artists, a demo typically serves an extremely rough sketch of what the song could eventually become and sound; however, with the Hakim, the general sense is that the demos are much more like building a holy temple — and as a result, as a producer and engineer, he was tasked to clean, furnish and prepare entrants for a religious experience. Thematically speaking, the material on the album reportedly focuses on unique and rather particular aspects of his life with the bulk of the songs based on specific things he was thinking and feeling at the time he was writing and composing. And as a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits — and in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the album’s song captures the artist sometimes in broad strokes but frequently in subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. Hakim adds, “I also felt the need to push my creativity in a different way than I had on the EPs,” The record draws from influences spanning Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye and Shuggie Otis to My Bloody Valentine. We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.”

Green Twins’ first single, “Bet She Looks Like You,” will further cement Hakim’s growing reputation for deeply intimate, confessional songwriting that manages to be heartbreakingly visceral while being a subtle expansion upon the sound that first won attention as it retains a spectral quality but with a subtle, bluesy swagger reminiscent of Roy Orbison. Interestingly, the recently released video for the song follows Hakim as he walks to a studio space in what appears to be Sunset Park, near Industrial City where he takes part in a surreal play full of dream-like imagery, missed chances, miscommunication — and some popping and locking.

 

Currently comprised of its Riga, Latvia-born, Brooklyn, NY-base founding duo Kerry Kaleja and Eric Jayk and recent recruits Rebecca Silber (bass) and Luca Bertalgia (drums), the Brooklyn-based glam rock act Astra the 22s can trace their origins back to 2011 when Kaleja and Jayk first met. As the story goes, Kaleja was looking for guitar lessons and stumbled onto Jayk’s Craigslist ad. Interestingly, at the time Jayk was a touring member of Wildstreet.

Three years later, Kaleja and Jayk started collaborating full-time, writing and recording music that drew from an eclectic set of influences including The Kills, Michael Jackson, Nine Inch Nails and Blondie among others. And with the release of their 2014 debut EP Blue Venom, the duo received attention across the Baltic region, playing at Vilnius Music Week, the Gaizin Kalns Festival and the KLANG! Rock Festival, and performed at the Gold Microphone Awards, one of Latvia’s biggest music award shows. Although both Kaleja and Jayk relocated to Williamsburg last year, where they recruited the band’s newest members their debut EP Blue Venom and their forthcoming sophomore EP Paris Love were primarily written while the band’s founding duo were living apart with one member in Riga and the other in Brooklyn; however, the band’s newest material may be the most self-assured and arena rock friendly work they’ve completed to date while the material thematically explores sex, narcissism love, art and war on a personal and global level.

The EP’s latest single, EP title track “Paris Love” is a sensual and swaggering song featuring an enormous, arena rock friendly sound — power chords upon power chords, propulsive and forceful drumming, sultry vocals and a rousingly anthemic hook. Structurally, the song manages to draw from radio friendly, 90s grunge and electro rock — think of Garbage, Nine Inch Nails and others –as quiet verses lead the way for the aforementioned anthemic hooks but with a sleek yet unfussy, contemporary sheen.

 

Live Footage: ATO Sessions: Nick Hakim “Bet She Looks Like You”

Up until relatively recently, it had been some since I had written about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Nick Hakim; however, 2017 looks to be a big year for the renowned singer/songwriter as his much-anticipated full-length debut Green Twins is slated for a May 19, 2017 release through ATO Records — and if you had stumbled across this site earlier today, you’d remember that Hakim is currently on tour to build up buzz for the new material until its release.

Interestingly enough, as the story goes, Hakim can trace the origins of the material of Green Twins to when armed with the masters for his first two EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where Will We Go Part 2, the DC-born singer/songwriter and guitarist relocated from Boston, where he was based at the time to Brooklyn. And as soon as he got himself settled, he spent his spare time fleshing out incomplete songs and writing and recording sketches and lyrics using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder. He then took his new, demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

As Andrew Sarlo explained in press notes about the writing and recording process for Green Twins, for many artists, a demo typically serves an extremely rough sketch of what the song could eventually become and sound; however, with the Hakim, the general sense is that the demos are much more like building a holy temple — and as a result, as a producer and engineer, he was tasked to clean, furnish and prepare entrants for a religious experience. Thematically speaking, the material on the album reportedly focuses on unique and rather particular aspects of his life with the bulk of the songs based on specific things he was thinking and feeling at the time he was writing and composing. And as a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits — and in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the album’s song captures the artist sometimes in broad strokes but frequently in subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. Hakim adds, “I also felt the need to push my creativity in a different way than I had on the EPs,” The record draws from influences spanning Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye and Shuggie Otis to My Bloody Valentine. We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.”

While in town for an intimate and sold out show at Union Pool, Hakim and his backing band recorded a live version of the spectral and achingly confessional “Bet She Looks Like You” for the ATO Sessions at Bushwick’s Market Hotel — and while conveying a visceral heartache and longing, paired with a Quiet Storm-like groove, the song, with repeated listens somehow manages to nod at Marvin Gaye, Bilal and Roy Orbison, thanks in part to his incredibly tight backing band. Speaking of the great Roy Orbison, the live footage is shot in a gorgeous, film noir-like black and white, much like Roy Orbison and Friends: A Night in Black and White.