Releasing her debut album in 2014, and releasing 4 EP’s before and after that, Marika Hackman doesn’t hold back with what she releases, and it seems like she makes sure it’s always her best work. She is known for her distinctive voice, seriously, it’s not very hard to identify her. With “We Slept At Last” being her raw alt-folk sound, she doesn’t lose that at all with “I’m Not Your Man,” she just makes sure its amplified and got a heavy grunge roar with the help from “The Big Moon.”
We start the album off with subtle laughs, making it instantly feel like “Boyfriend“ is going to have an “I don’t give a damn” Alanis Morissette sort of attitude, be a bit more of a laugh then her other songs, and mostly, a less serious approach. “I’ve got your boyfriend on my mind” tells an unknown story, automatically making us, the listeners, feel somewhat closer to what’s to happen in the song. As Marika steals the girl from the boyfriend, she carries her “I don’t give a damn” attitude and just shrugs her shoulders with “It’s fine ’cause I am just a girl, It doesn’t count.” “He knows a woman needs a man to make her scream” makes it sound like the man only thinks that a woman can be “satisfied” by a man. Is this boy blind? Are you living in the 1900’s? Homosexuality is human nature boy, grow up, these things happen. Can’t forget how the guitar “screeches” sounds like they’re itching to talk, waiting for the big scream as the verses build up into the big chorus. With similarities to “My Iron Lung” by Radiohead, it feels like we’re living in the 90’s again. Long live Grunge.
“Good Intentions“ fuzzes in with a screaming guitar riff to bring what feels like orchestral stabs of delicate tones but played quite vigorously. Dreamy vocals enter of what feels like Marika’s just saying out loud what’s on her mind, which is great, cause that’s exactly what we want to hear. Being able to perceive what an artist is on about makes us feel somewhat closer to what they’re playing. Angry vocals in “Good Intentions” is really what sticks out, the lyrics remind me a little child that’s been naughty but won’t apologise. Bass driving the chorus really makes it feel somewhat groovy but still very dark.
“Gina had a gun, she shot the horizon and killed the sun…” Gina’s World captures you instantly with its simplicity, somewhat fitting in the same way as “Something in the Way by Nirvana” but with such a indie/shoe-gaze vibe going on. Intimate guitar parts create the pulse with Marika’s gentle voice being dunked in reverb for the pre chorus. The choir vocals harmonises together to make this gorgeous sound before the chorus hits. “We just murdered the sun…” you definitely didn’t murder it Marika, you made the sun come out of hiding. It feels like throughout the song, the sun was too scared to come out, but once it was “murdered”… it wanted to be seen, this is definitely a metaphor of how maybe Marika is feeling with her thoughts.
Looking at Marika’s influences/interests and seeing The Cure in her own playlist, you can definitely hear that in “My Lover Cindy.” Interesting chords are played which the vocal’s intwine to make this feel good song have this fairly physical attraction between Marika and this “Cindy.” The song feels like it’s coming of age, trying new things which in this songs case is physical attraction and having this bond with that one special person. The drums hold it all together with this polyrhythm shining off the guitars. This song is definitely about the melody, it’s fancy and sassy. There are standards in love though as Marika proves, plus there’s always high expectations all of the time, but after all “we could be together, take my heart…
“Round We Go” feels like thoughts that you have to keep thinking to finally get your head round it. Kind of like a Groundhog Day of “Here we go, got to live this day again before I can do something else.” With such negative lyrics, it feels like Marika is holding back what she really means. The tune itself is great, once again simplicity is the key to this song, with additional string instruments making it so much lovelier. “I’m inside my head, rolling ‘round my skull, Like a flesh-coloured marble, round we go” sounds like she has a lot of thoughts that are constantly in her head that can’t be shook off. Maybe it’s about the music industry and how it’s hard to get your head round it, but oh well, writing a song about whatever’s on your mind surely helps. As much as I think the song is quite clever how the lyrics are dark but the tune is somewhat happy, it feels a little bit flat until the high harmonies come in. Its like the high harmony is her angel on her shoulder telling her things are going to be okay.
“Violet” seems a bit of an obsessive song of how Marika graves her ex’s mouth, maybe she misses their lips? But the way she interprets the lyrics, she really misses their mouth and wishes to “roll around their tongue.” Similar to the other songs on the album, we really get a feel for Marika’s alt-rock sound as well as her quite folky lyrics. The weirdness of this song is quite similar to how St Vincent doesn’t want to be a “Cheerleader” anymore. Its a creepy song really, the only normal thing about the song is the instruments. The song does somehow constantly build until it gets into a section sounding very James Bond-esque. Then the breakdown starts of just loads of alt-rock layers before ending up back to simplicity of just Marika and her electric guitar. Probably my least favourite song of the album, but its still caught my ear when I first listened to it, just because of the strange lyrics.
Going back to her roots, Marika’s next song is “Cigarette.” Beautiful stripped song of Marika’s vocals and acoustic guitar. A minimal amount can sometimes be the key of a great song. It’s suited in a perfect place of the album to put the song as, it felt like the album needed such a simple song right after the weirdness of “Violet.” “Cigarette” is definitely a break up song and a stab in the heart of emotion. Whoever broke Marika’s heart, screw you, but thanks for doing that because she wrote such a beautiful song about it. This song feels like it could of even been perfect to put on the “We Slept at Last” album but I’m so glad it’s on this album instead, proves that Marika can spice things up sometimes, even if its just a little stripped back folk song.
“Times Been Reckless” is filled with juicy, funky bass lines, heavy but simple guitar tones, quirky vocal lines and quite straightforward drum parts. The main hook is probably the catchiest lyric of the whole album… “1, 2, 3, 4, tell her that you love her more, 5, 6, 7, 8, no more time, don’t be late” and kind of gives this sassy girl attitude of “you better tell the girl you like, that you like her before its too late.” It’s pretty cheesy but it works. I really like how the song just wanders into this 90’s ambient, eerie section with the instrumentation sounding very much like a part of a Sonic Youth song before rocking back into the hook line in the background with Marika still singing softly over the top.
Western feel to this little country-folk song makes “Apple Tree” tensed and mysterious. It’s aching with fatigue and makes the song sometimes hard to listen to without feeling some sort of tired. This song kind of reminds me a bit of “Times Been Reckless: because its purely about how time goes so quickly and Marika’s tired of being tired. The instrumentation of this song isn’t really as captivating as the others, but the lyrics really hold the song together and gives the song that little bit of spice that it needs.
An off beat bass line and chorus sounding guitars makes up “So Long.” It seems to be about a relationship that went bad “I was wrong to carry on so long.” The chorus tricks you into thinking is this a happy song or sad song because of the instrumentation, obviously it’s a sad song because of the lyric “So now it’s all my fault, And I pushed you into her arms.” Cheating is not good, everybody knows that, except for the person who cheated apparently. This song feels like it’s lacking something though and I’m not entirely sure what it is, maybe it’s missing a more of a heavier sound because the lyrics are really a punch in the stomach, whereas the instruments aren’t.
“Eastbound Train” feels the same as “So Long” to me as well, it feels a bit average compared to the other songs on the album like “Good Intentions.” The lyric “And I’ll step back here with my head held high” is sung differently to the rest of the song so it really stands out more making it the most unique part of the song as well as the “sha la la’s.” The instrumentation is seriously lacking something though, the guitars feel quite hidden, they could of been brought out loads more to make the song more identifying. The bass and drum parts are quite simple and similar to the guitars part, quite hidden and not obvious at all.
Easy listening and stunningly ghostly, the intro riff of “Blahblahblah” enters with such confidence making it so comfortable to listen too, you seriously can feel every single note. “Ghost town, walk among the zombies, Faced down, their eyes are never on me” can be took in many ways, is she thinking of a parallel universe of actual zombies or maybe we all walk round like zombies because we’re constantly on our mobile phones. We can all some sort relate to this song if we are or aren’t a “zombie.” The subtle delay of the vocals on the last line of each verse echoes a thought that Marika is thinking… “Plugged into a pocket, Sigh, might as well just die.” That thought is so scary because it’s true, its so hard to get “noticed” when everyone is stuck in their own little “technology world.” “I could try to emulate the brain-dead, But I get sick and tired of the radio.” The song is a mixture of mockery in technology, music and politics.
Ambient vocals and a world of reverb creates “I’d Rather Be With Them.” Very similar to Cigarette in a way as its dark and more stripped back than the other songs, but this song has far more elements to it. The backing vocals are absolutely beautiful and create this real foggy mind set. It’s about a relationship not getting anywhere but sometimes its not so simple to get out off it. This song has the most tension of any songs on the album just because of Marika’s intense vocal part. She really means it, so much. When the vocal stops and its just the weird guitar parts, it really captures the whole song. It’s unusual, weird and creates this gorgeous “fuck you” atmosphere to the person breaking her heart.
Marika doesn’t write just “little” songs, it sounds like every idea she has becomes such a big idea and you can definitely hear that in “AM.” I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the next James Bond theme tune, it’s big for such a simple song. Marika has that effect on her music, like that saying “go hard, or go home,” she really works at it to make sure it’s right. The descending guitar part at the end of the choruses lays a sinister sound to what is such a lovely sounding song. It feels like it doesn’t fit at all, but in a strange way, it works perfect with what Marika is singing about, physical attraction to that one person, but the relationship isn’t working.
“Majesty” is the final track of the album and it’s a strange way to say goodbye. It’s about insanity and the instrumentation really reflects that with it’s clever melodies. The vocals really make the song sound a lot better than it actually is. The structure works well seeing as there’s not actually a chorus to it, so it’s different to the other songs in that aspect. The strange guitar effects and ambient vocals piece together Marika’s “sound” and this song is a great example of that.
Overall, one of my favourite albums of the year so far and glad Marika’s back with a punch. It’s great how she was known for her “folky” sound and then she’s come back with this album. Glad to have you back, girl.
Score – 9/10
Favourite Tracks: Good Intentions, Gina’s World, Cigarette, Time’s Been Reckless, Blahblahblah