What is left over when we lose a loved one, romantic or otherwise?
Artifacts like letters, a ticket stub or two, phones and boxes full of photos, a special necklace, and well-worn sweatshirts come to mind, but what sticks to the bones of us is often the way we felt at any given moment with someone we’ve loved and lost.
Specificity often goes out the window, important dates are blurred and the fine print fades, and what remains is more of a feeling, your body and your heart remembering the mark left upon them by someone in the past.
The enduring marks they’ve left on our perspectives, on the way we’ll choose to love in the future, on the way in which we move through the world are difficult to put into words, and these are the feelings that Nick Hakim ruminates so wisely and concisely on throughout his debut EP Where Will We Go, released in two parts in the spring of last year.
The patient, hazed out soul that Hakim serves up on Where Will We Go is the perfect twin to his lyrical musings on breakups and death. The instrumentation and production feel like a sparse, dreamy D’Angelo, while his minimal lyrics and sleepy delivery floats just above it all. Each song reveals itself slowly, and welcomes the listener into Hakim’s warm sonic world with open arms, his short statements on the subjects of love and loss cutting cleanly through the layer of smoky mist that hovers atop each of Hakim’s songs.
His sound is both past and future, hints of Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke mingling with fresh elements that are uniquely his own. An organ bubbles beneath lush harmonies and a grooving guitar and drums on “Cold,” the first track of Pt. 1. Hakim sings here about realizing he’s lost a lover, and captures the way lost loved ones are contained in our memories in some ways as vast as the earth and in others as small as a look in their eyes.
In the first verse, he sings “deep as the ocean, cold like the sea, I’m lost in your storm, you poured it out on me, with your eyes, they never lie;” in the second, “I see her in my hands, I know she’s in my soul, but she left me here trailing, in the cold December snow, oh her smile, oh her smile.”
The subject of dreams and illusions permeate throughout the two EPs as well. Over a low organ, bell-like piano, far off space synths, and his signature washed out guitar, Hakim repeats “I ain’t dreamin,’” sounding as if he’s trying to convince himself of that on the “The Light.”
Hakim seems to be winking at the listener from within a dream, as this song sounds like meeting an old lover in a hazy place beyond the waking world, a solemn remembrance of someone both there and not there.
Listening to Where Will We Go is like slipping in and out of a dream state, at once rooted in reality and standing beyond it as Hakim carries us through the EPs with an honesty and restraint that belies his 24 years.
Pt II deals more directly with loss in the form of death, as Hakim asks a departed loved one simply, “Where did you go…Where will we go?” on the first track, whose title provides Hakim’s answers to these questions: “I Don’t Know.” “Lift Me Up,” Pt. II’s closer, is a lo-fi gem that asks again, “where will I go…where will my soul reside, and will I find happiness?”
These earnest meditations are what make Hakim’s music cut straight through to the listener, inviting them in, if only for the length of a song, to sit down, share in his loneliness for a bit, and maybe ask themselves these questions too.
Nick is currently on tour, and you can check him out live in these cities:
5-4 Chicago, IL – Schuba’s Tavern
5-5 Columbus, OH- The Basement
5-7 New York, NY- S.O.B’s
5-8 Washington, D.C- U Street Music Hall
5-9 Philadelphia, PA- Johnny Brenda’s
For more Nick Hakim, click here.