After breaking through with the platinum-selling, London-in-the-summer anthem “Hell N Back” in 2019, Camden songwriter/singer/producer Bakar quickly showed he had more musical strings to his bow than that song’s dusty breaks and Amy Winehouse/Lily Allen vibes let on. His full debut album, 2022’s Nobody’s Home, presented a lo-fi R&B/nocturnal hip-hop hybrid and this follow-up turns sharply away from that sound, towards something bigger, brighter, and even more diverse. As you might expect from an artist simultaneously raised on leftfield hip-hop and scrappy 2000s indie rock, Halo skips between sounds and moods in a way that makes any notion of pigeonholing laughable. From opener “OneInOneOut” and its Prince-meets-Frank Ocean jam to The Strokes-like chug of “Alive!” through the club beats of “Invisible” and the widescreen ’80s rock of “All Night,” the album zigzags across the musical map. Yet it still retains its own distinct character and cohesion by staying true to the realism and lyrical honesty that’s always run through Bakar’s songwriting. “I always want to move on and try something new,” he tells Apple Music. “That’s just the nature of what I do. I’m so proud of Nobody’s Home, but I felt we were done with those sounds. I wanted to make something brighter. After COVID, we didn’t want to be in the studio as much, we wanted to be in spaces that had a lot of light, so we rented out houses and would record there. We were traveling around a lot, which you can hear. That’s what gives the songs a relationship with each other—they were made in these similar surroundings.” Here, Bakar takes us through the record, track by track. “OneInOneOut” “I had this almost Springsteen-like vision of opening the album, like, bang! Almost like you would open a show. I love the storytelling in this song, in particular the first verse where I’m explaining where I was at in 32 bars. That’s why I thought it was such a great opener. The first vocal you hear on that song is Little Simz. She starts the whole album off just by saying, ‘Halo,’ and then we begin.” “Alive!” “‘Alive!’ was the first thing we made for this record. I always try and avoid genre and putting things in a box, but I know there’s a section of my support base that would get a kick out of me calling that my indie-rock song or whatever. I love doing songs that have this duality to them. They feel bright and happy-go-lucky, but when you lift the lid on them, it’s a lot deeper than you thought and there’s a real story there. I like masking darkness with light. Sometimes things resonate better like that.” “Facts_Situations” “I made that song in LA in a house that we had rented out. We had these shit speakers in the kitchen and we started making it in the middle of the night. I don’t even think we had a bass, we were being resourceful and using what we had. That story just came to me, it was stream of consciousness. I wrote it all in my head and then just vomited it out. Most stuff on the record came after a conversation. That’s the beauty of being able to create in a home environment, that you can have a conversation and then, whether intentionally or not, those conversations seep into the song.” “All Night” “It’s so funny to me that ‘Facts_Situations’ is jammed between ‘Alive!’ and ‘All Night.’ It’s like it wakes you up—BAM! OK, cool, we’re back. I wanted to go back to the daytime from the night. I love this song. It sounds ‘big.’ And I don’t mean in terms of the industry big, just how it sounds. It’s larger than life. The guitars sound really fat, that’s what I love about it. We were just trying to make a funky little jam with that song and it came out great.” “Selling Biscuits” “I love specifics about life in storytelling and that’s why I love ‘Selling Biscuits’ because it’s real. Me and my friends really used to be at festivals and doing what we needed to do to get by—selling biscuits to all the rich kids. I don’t want to be glorifying anything, but it’s just the realness of the scenario. It’s about having this moment where I realized, ‘Oh my god, they’re not that different from us and we’re not that different from them…’ That’s what led me to make the kind of music that I make. We were the urban kids who climbed in there to graffiti and make money but then we ended up getting into certain types of bands that we would never have found in our life and connecting to people that we would never connect with. There was a togetherness and a bringing together in that.” “I’m Done” “I really feel like I merged quite a few of my tastebuds in that one song. It’s got this R&B vibe to it and then this new jack swing thing happens with the drums and then—slap—you’re into the next part which has this indie/Talking Heads guitar and it feels really fresh. I’m from Tanzania and whenever I heard Talking Heads I always thought they sounded like African guitar playing.” “Right Here, For Now” “‘Right Here…’ and ‘I’m Done’ were recorded at Electric Lady in New York, which was unbelievable. You hear about some places and you put too many expectations onto something, but Electric Lady lived up to all those expectations. ‘Right Here…’ was all done live, using stuff in the room at the time. The guitar has a sort of Strokes thing to it. I could even imagine Julian Casablancas singing it. I didn’t want to try and make a Strokes song, I’m not even a massive Strokes fan, but I could actually hear him singing that in his tone. I love that song.” “Hate the Sun” “That song is just a reflection of a situation and of a time. The whole song is a metaphor. I’m just telling a story and it’s really impartial in that sense. It’s similar to ‘Facts_Situations.’ I’m just telling the story as I see it. I’m not trying to have an opinion on who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s not that kind of a song. I’m just saying what my feelings are. When you’re saying what your feelings are, there’s no real right or wrong, it’s just how you feel. I like the tone of that song too, I’ve always thought of it like a mahogany table.” “Invisible” “There were a million ways we could have made that song. It just wanted to be made like that. We’re from London. We grew up on bass music. We grew up on electronic music. We grew up on DJs. That was what we came up on, [London nightclubs] Plastic People and Corsica Studios and London being an electronic powerhouse. That’s just us, we’re always going to have to get that out. ‘Invisible’ is one of my favorite songs I ever wrote in the songwriting sense, also. I really hope that people understand it in that sense because, and I sound crazy saying this, it’s such an incredibly written song from all aspects, instrumentally and lyrically.” “To Open My Heart” “This song is like a mirror on the wall and I’m talking to myself. It’s like a reminder to myself: Try and be who you are. It’s a song where I’m trying to display all the different things that I do, but without trying to try too hard or trying to fit too many pieces of the puzzle in. I made it in a day. It felt like a good full stop, because it felt like the one song on the record where I’m really addressing myself after all these different tales about other people in my life. Sonically, it feels like a crescendo, this grand closing to the album.” “Hell N Back” (feat. Summer Walker) “I’ve had such a love-hate relationship with this song over the years. I’ve fallen out of love with it and shunned it, but I’ve grown to just love it. As a song it’s one of my favorites I ever made, but just because of what it’s become. I never wanted to be an artist who had this one beacon shining so brightly that it could potentially smother out its siblings, but I’ve ended up coming to terms with it and I’m grateful for it. The only way I wanted it to be part of Halo was to find someone to do a remix and give it something else. Summer Walker wrote a verse and sung the chorus with me on this. She’s done it so well and she’s the only person I could see doing it. She represents so much of what I was trying to put across on this song. There’s something very Amy Winehouse about her to me.”

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