Marika Hackman is not a woman to be pigeonholed. Her first album We Slept At Last, with its quaint and cutesy vocals, was a beautifully executed alt-folk album that garnered praise and, arguably lazy, comparisons to some of Britain’s best loved folk musicians. That might have been enough for some so early in their career but as I say luckily for us, Marika Hackman is not a woman to sit comfortably in worn out categories.
So, it is with her second album, I’m Not Your Man, that Hackman, with the help of the indelibly down-to-earth sounds of The Big Moon, has set out to produce something more frank, sweaty and down-right dirty. With her sweet whispering vocals, she has created folk with a forked tongue – a genre defying sound that feels like an unambiguous fuck you to anyone that sought to label her.
I’m Not Your Man isn’t just a new, more mature and impassioned sound for Hackman. It is also a new way of songwriting for the 25-year-old British musician. Gone are the metaphors and innuendos that peppered her first album adding a delicate spice. In their place is a raw, sardonic sexual liberation full of fire, that defies gender roles and exposes love in all its grimy glory.
“Boyfriend” is an exquisite LGBT single full of irony that unmasks the pointed absurdity of outdated masculine ideas around gender, sex, love and adultery. Lines like, “It’s fine ‘cause I am just a girl / It doesn’t count” are delivered with such caustic glee that we come to understand that the unwitting boyfriend could, and probably will, lose everything.
The rest of the album follows on in this same vein, with singles like the sultry and overtly sexual “Violet” and the heart breaking “I’d Rather Be With Them”, acting as emotional bookends to a passionate, insecure and ultimately blistering love affair.
With, I’m Not Your Man, it is like Hackman took every dark, unspoken and dangerous aspect of the human relationship and exposed it to polite society. It’s exciting to listen to and from the spontaneous laughter, screams and general anarchy that The Big Moon’s presence brings it sounds like it was just as exciting to record.
Working with The Big Moon is another courageous decision and new direction for Hackman. But like the other changes she has made for this album she very much seems to have pulled it off. It could so easily have become an album of disjoint or worse, the larger than life sound of The Big Moon might have overshadowed the subtler stylings of Hackman.
But no, this is very much a cohesive, balanced and definitively Marika Hackman album. Her personality and creative genius shines through on each track.
What really stands out for me about I’m Not Your Man is not just the bold way in which Hackman has sought to redefine herself and her music with this second album (albeit a redefinition without edges); but that she manages to do it without alienating her diehard fans. Whilst picking up a whole new fan base along the way.
Acoustic tracks like “Cigarette” and “Apple Tree” provide enough of a hook for those that loved the simpler, more delicate sound of We Slept At Last. Whereas, the distinctly raucous “Good Intentions” and “Time’s Been Reckless,” pull off a vibrancy and newly won confidence that is infectious.
If you aren’t in love Marika Hackman already you will be by the time “Majesty’s” last, wandering and ghostly note fades and you are left in silence, in awe.
Words By Leander Hobbs