Reviewed by: Max Miller
Green Twins, the debut full-length from NYC-based soul singer Nick Hakim, is marked by woozy synths and hypnagogic washes of delay. Its sonic palette draws from the same sources as Mac DeMarco’s chilled out slacker pop, vaporwave’s early ‘90s nostalgia a e s t h e t i c and the hazy beats of producers like Jinsang. The record’s (somewhat literally) eye-catching artwork was made by Robert Beatty, whose covers for Tame Impala, Thee Oh Sees and Oneohtrix Point Never often serve as signposts for trippy pastures ahead. In short, Green Twins seems, at first glance, tailormade to be something “the kids” will dig.
But in spite of all that, Hakim’s debut is a very mature album. On the opening title cut, he expresses doubts over impending fatherhood, singing, “I wanted to start it with you / But someone said we ain’t ready / I admit inside me lived fear / Fear I never wanted to show you.” The single “Bet She Looks Like You” features cavernous production with a minimalist bass line driving the groove, over which Hakim pledges his love to his partner, comparing her to God as spacey guitars bounce off one another like the voices of seraphim.
It can be tempting to label Hakim’s music as “neo-soul,” given that it is soul music being produced in 2017. But that genre tag, while vague as any other, usually implies a sense of retrofuturism. Green Twins, while certainly feeling of its time, leans far more heavily on nostalgic impulses. The all-enveloping piano and strings on a ballad like “Needy Bees” sound like something the Beatles or Phil Spector might have pulled off. Hakim cites those artists, as well as legends like Al Green and Screaming Jay Hawkins, among his main influences while making this record. The most modern sources of inspiration he credits are beatmakers like RZA and Madlib, and songs like “Cuffed” and “Farmissplease” nod to those producers’ ability to juxtapose massive old school drum samples with newer production techniques to create a disorienting sense of timelessness.
Green Twins’ only failing is that it begins to rely too heavily on the same tricks, causing the b-side to drag a bit. The powerhouse Onyx Collective-featuring “Those Days” uses some distinct percussion tricks and massive sax solos to free it from the album’s psychedelic churn, but, otherwise, the tail-end of the album begins to blend together, especially compared to the single-laden a-side.
No one is quite making music like Nick Hakim. His music may have many referents, but no one has blended these ingredients together like this before. Where much soul is either hyper-modern or almost cloyingly nostalgic, Hakim’s music occupies an indistinct middleground. Even though Green Twins draws a little too much from the same bag of tricks, it shows promise for Hakim as a producer and songwriter. He definitely seems like someone with whom other smart musicians will want to collaborate. His aesthetic, in more-contained doses, can be truly enrapturing.