Release Date: Jun 2, 2017
Record label: Sub Pop Records
Marika Hackman's two albums to date couldn't be more different if they joined opposite teams in a battle pitting chalk against cheese. While 'We Slept At Last' was an intricately crafted journey in shadowy folk and pastoral imagery, the follow-up sees thought playing second fiddle to bold impulse. It's deliberately littered with muttered asides, accidental mess-ups, and the occasional studio fuck-up, for one.
Never in my wildest dreams after hearing Marika Hackman's delicate 2015 debut would I have guessed her second would open with a banger - yet 'Boyfriend' is exactly that. The off-kilter progressive folk track has an immediate exuberance and an inescapable braveness for an artist who made an acclaimed debut in a far removed sound. A brazen track brimming with spontaneity and Big Moon shrieking, it is sharp enough to slice through the twee indie folk label with which Hackman had been firmly branded following the release of We Slept At Last.
The fact that We Slept At Last was so different from Marling and Flynn's records, despite her being cast in their shadow, showed as much. Though it perhaps lacked confidence, it was a uniquely subtle album that packed a punch when it wanted to. I'm Not Your Man, then, is Hackman thoroughly shaking off those labels to truly show us what many missed the first time around.
What a difference a couple of years can make. When we last saw Marika Hackman, she was playing solo, dressed in an oversized t-shirt and jeans, strumming moody folkish songs. At the London show to launch her second album, she appeared with a band - The Big Moon – all dressed in huge angel wings. She looked like a pop star.
H urrah for Hackman! The British musician has, for her second album, set fire to her twee-ish sound and risen from the alt-folk scene like a proper stomping pop star, all sharp suits and songs that brood with breakup angst and simmer with sexuality. Her pearlescent lightness is still there in her sweetly sung cut-glass vocals, but in place of acoustic twangs there are heavy lidded licks and an overall louche noir. Grunge and shoegaze set the tone this time: the diaphanous guitar chimes enveloping like a cape.
Marika Hackman made a very savvy choice when she chose "Boyfriend" as both the opener and lead single for I'm Not Your Man -- savvy because the album makes a pretty seismic shift from the nu-folk of her debut. It's a damn sight noisier for a start, requiring a full band setup. Handily, she happens to be pals with London-based group the Big Moon, who act as her backing band for the record.
On her debut record, 2015's We Slept At Last, Marika Hackman emerged as a moody folk songwriter characterised by her literate lyrics and acoustic arrangements. Supported this time around by friends The Big Moon, the London-based singer-songwriter throws off the folk garb on her second record I'm Not Your Man, serving up a more jagged, rockier offering that unflinchingly explores the brutality of relationships. Opener Boyfriend epitomises Hackman's new self-confidence and directness, an infectious kiss-off in which Hackman revels in seducing some bro's girlfriend, punctuated by mischievous laughs and high-pitched yelps.
Over the past 14 months, three very different LGBTQ acts have each released a brilliantly subversive song titled "Boyfriend. " Last April, Tegan and Sara made a synth-pop plea for a straight girl to stop playing around and commit. In September, Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace raged at a flaky partner who treated her like "some dumb fucking boyfriend.
What is the range of difference between one artist with an appealing, clever voice and a fluent guitar with attitude and another? Well, taking in Marika Hackman's sophomore album, I'm Not Your Man, gives some idea. There's nothing out of the ordinary found in these personal illustrations. Yet the balance of measure in production (by Charlie Andrew, who has worked with alt-J) accompanying the cool coating effect of Hackman's singing and carriage of writing is disarming.
Reinvention is fine in a singer, so long as the new guise is worn with purpose. Marika Hackman surprised doubters with the Summerisle folk of 2015 debut We Slept At Last, and the follow-up promises another turn, this time into spiky alt-rock turf. But it's only a partial gear shift, as if Hackman isn't sure of her preferred or most effective speed or setting.
Marika Hackman's I'm Not Your Man lives in a complicated, self-aware space almost entirely unconcerned with the male gaze. Singing and playing the guitar, backed by a mostly female group of musicians, she swaggers softly but undeniably, in charge of her own destiny. Men figure only as bystanders, as when she leads with a chuckle and a tale of intergender complications, the fallout from a night with a girl involved with a boy.