British singer-songwriter Bakar makes a triumphant return with his second studio album, Halo. Following a steady stream of single releases throughout 2023 (including the hit "Right Here, for Now," which I had the pleasure of reviewing), as well as a recent surge in popularity on TikTok with his 2019 hit, “Hell N Back,” Bakar's “Halo” was eagerly anticipated by both his loyal fanbase and a wave of new listeners.
Halo defies genre categorization, as we might have expected. Bakar effortlessly weaves elements of R&B, pop, hip-hop, and indie rock into a rich musical tapestry. The album boasts warm guitar tones, pulsating garage drums, deep bass lines, and the occasional synth, all of which provide the foundation for the laid-back vibe of Halo. Bakar's soulful crooning and nonchalant vocals gracefully ride atop these diverse soundscapes, conveying themes of heartbreak and unwavering love. Notably, Bakar recorded most of these tracks in unconventional settings such as Airbnbs, hotels, and homes rather than traditional studios, which adds to the album's DIY charm and complements his casual vocal delivery.
Tracks like “All Night,” “Right Here, for Now,” and “I’m Done” prominently showcase Bakar's songwriting prowess in crafting focused, infectious pop tunes. With their faster tempos and tighter grooves, these songs were clearly designed to be hits, and Bakar's heightened focus on vocal delivery and melodies truly shines through. While crafting ear-catching hooks with distinct melodies and grooves might not be Bakar's typical style, he demonstrates his pop sensibility brilliantly on these tracks.
In contrast, “Hate The Sun” and “OneInOneOut” delve into Bakar's unstructured, unorthodox songwriting style. These tracks place greater emphasis on his soulful vocal delivery and heart-rending lyrics, with the instrumental accompaniment taking a backseat role. “Hate The Sun” deserves special mention, boasting what could arguably be the album's most emotionally charged moment with its poignant chorus: “It’s all we have here.”
At 11 songs and 39 minutes in length, Halo feels succinct, authentic, and perfectly aligned with Bakar's artistic vision. The album maintains a DIY ethos throughout, offering a mixtape or EP-like experience. While there are fleeting moments where a more intense focus on songwriting could have elevated certain tracks, Bakar manages to captivate the listener with his nonchalant delivery. However, it's in those instances where he channels his increased focus and songwriting efforts that the project truly shines.
Bakar’s Halo stands as an enchanting soundtrack for laidback romantics, indie skater enthusiasts, and devoted alt-pop aficionados.