Album Review | Marika Hackman impresses on I’m Not Your Man

Marika HackmanMarika Hackman I'm Not Your Man - HeadStuff.org

I’m Not Your Man

[Sub Pop]

There’s a naked intimacy to Marika Hackman’s latest record that’s hard to describe. I’m Not Your Man builds an awful lot around a gentle indie folk sound, layering on huge sections of sweeping sound and big rock hooks – but despite all this there’s a disarming simplicity to the album. It feels like an uncomplicated and uncompromising baring of the soul. Not matter how much is going on musically, the songs have a cutting honesty at their core that never gets buried, even when the cause of it is a little hard to put your finger on.

Opening track ‘Boyfriend’ laces a dreamy melody around a grungy riff – and despite practically bursting with a rich, raunchy energy, still feels like a tender moment of introspection. Lines like “I held his girl in my hands/ she likes it cos they’re softer than a man’s” nail the typical aggressive sexuality of your average male rockstar without sacrificing a much more interesting and affecting mood. In a way it’s a little reminiscent of Patti Smith channeling poetry into puck rock, and never sacrificing one camp or planting herself firmly in the other. ‘Good Intentions’ likewise could be mistaken for a big loud rock song were it not for a more ethereal essence that weaves its way throughout.

A lot of this may be down to Hackman’s haunting vocal delivery. On ‘Gina Says’ she slips effortlessly from a raw grungy verse to spine-chillingly beautiful church choir-like chorus. On ‘Apple Tree’ Hackman voice moans “I feel so damn old” with such a world-weary weight that she might as well be carved out of stone. A few minutes she’s all airy and ethereal again on the popish and dreamy ‘So Long.’ There are hardly two tracks on the album which see her trying the exact same thing. Each successive song adds a new facet.

Her lyrics meanwhile are as piercing as the voice singing them – with lines like “I could try to emulate the brain dead/ but I get sick and tired of the radio/ buzzing like a hornet in playpen…” (from ‘Blahblahblah’) that’ll linger around long after the song has ended.

Hackman could probably get away with a lot less production than this album heaps on – but somehow this never becomes a bad thing. The deftly arranged layers of instrumentals only ever serve as emphasis, rather than annoying clutter. Hackman’s penetrating voice is such a presence throughout that it feels a lot less accompanied than it actually is.

When she does finally strip it back a bit of ‘Cigarette’ the result is staggering. The song pins a violently intense relationship down to a single moment described with razor sharp brushstrokes over the course of two and a half minutes. The chorus only appears twice before the song fades out into its eerie coda, but Hackman’s voice has so much resonance that it seems like far more.

I’m Not Your Man isn’t quite indie rock, or folk, or alternative rock, or bedroom pop, or whatever word best describes a mopey singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar. It occupies a more nebulous intersection of all these and more. It’s an intense and spectacular collection of music, and Hackman makes it all seem kind of effortless.

EIGHT OUT OF TEN

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