Earlier this year, the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Nick Hakim quietly re-emerged with the first batch of new material in some time, “Bet She Looks Like You,” and “Green Twins,” the first two singles off his much-anticipated and long-awaited full-length debut album Green Twins, which is slated for release in a few weeks through ATO Records. Interestingly, Hakim can trace the origins 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, Hakim spent his spare time fleshing out incomplete songs and writing and recording sketches 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 Hakim, things are done very differently; in fact, the demos are seen as more akin to building a comfortable, holy temple — and as a result, as a producer and engineer, Sarlo was tasked to clean, furnish where necessary and prepare those who entered for a profound, religious experience. However, thematically speaking, Green Twins‘ material reportedly focuses on unique and particular aspects and events of his life with the bulk of the songs being based on specific experiences, feelings, and thoughts had at the time he was writing and composing. 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.”
Now, as I wrote about “Bet She Looks lIke You,” the song further cemented Hakim’s growing profile and reputation for writing intimately confessional songwriting with a heartbreakingly visceral feel — all while being a subtle refinement and expansion of the sound that first won the attention of the blogosphere; in fact, the material retains a spectral quality, thanks to sparse arrangements that allow room for Hakim’s achingly tender falsetto but interestingly enough, the song manages to nod at Roy Orbison. Green Twins‘ third and latest single “Roller Skates” continues in a similar spectral and soulful vein; however, there’s a subtle hallucinogenic-fueled psychedelia. Adding to the personal feel of the album’s material, “Roller Skates” is partially inspired by actual real life experience. “The song’s first verse is about a night when I got really stoned at my friend’s house and forgot to meet up wth my partner,” Hakim says in press notes. “It was pouring rain outside and when I realized I was late, I biked through Bed Stuy as fast as I could through the rain to find her but she was gone . . . The second verse is about patching it up, and not leaving her house for a couple of days. It’s a love song.”
Featuring childlike and psychedelic animation by Micah Buzan, the video employs an accessible and deeply empathetic concept. “I wanted to tell a simple story about lonely characters, who desire something that they can’t seem to get — be it love, a stuffed animal, or the ability to skate well,” Buzan says. “I also tried to make it kind of funny how their expectations don’t live up to reality. In the end, rollerskating unites all the characters as they join together in the roller rink. We might feel alone but we’re in this life experiment together.” Much like he visuals for “Bet She Looks Like You,” the visuals for the latest single continue a trend of Hakim pairing his material with bold, playful yet artfully done imagery,