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Nick Hakim has spent the past eight years stripping soul music to its essentials. His sound is slow and understated, and the resulting intimacy makes his songs feel intensely urgent, like love really is the most important thing in the world. On a planet spinning faster and further from its axis toward bitter nihilism, it’s a refreshing take.
Today, he’s announcing a new album called Cometa and sharing its lead single, “Happen.” The title, a false cognate that translates from Spanish to “kite,” refers to the dizzying feeling of falling in love, according to a press release. It’s the experience of being totally in awe of another person, a dissociative sensation that feels like very much floating. “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.”
If Cometa tells the story of a romance, then “Happen,” its second track, describes the relationship’s honeymoon phase. It opens with three harmonics tapped into a guitar neck and allowed to echo in ambient space before disintegrating next to the swirling high notes of a pipe organ. Gentle drumming from Abe Rounds anchors the track to an achingly slow meter, rendered even more heart wrenching by Hakim’s subtly staggered acoustic strumming. “The sweetest angel / Fell into my world,” he sings, his pliant voice hovering just above a whisper. “She gives me reason / Was lost for a damn long time.
“She pours honey / Down my throat,” he continues, gurgling ever so slightly, as if the action is occurring in real time. “We stay up all night / I watch the sun scan her body / I just let it (happen).” The last line is the hook, sung as a Baroque call and response between Hakim and himself. It’s a hypnotic effect that adds to the song’s sense of weightlessness. Later, Alex G joins briefly on keys, providing another counterweight to the heaviness of Hakim’s guitar.
In Johan Carlsson’s visual treatment, the camera pans slowly over strangers on a vaguely European metro, inhabiting Hakim’s probing gaze at humanity. Hakim is only pictured in the video’s final minute, sitting in the center of the car and (inexplicably) getting a buzzcut.
“The idea for the video is very simple,” Carlsson explains. “We see people on a subway, all busy with their different lives. Some are in great spirits and some in deep thoughts, maybe because of trouble at work or in their personal life. Sometimes when you’re in a public space you’re not interested in your fellow human beings at all, and sometimes looking at them is so interesting that you can’t stop.”