Two years since the release of her acclaimed, and duly arresting debut album, 2015’s ‘We Slept At Last’, Marika Hackman had found herself at a crossroads. “Years of touring and playing solo meant I could play on my own with a guitar, standing on my head…If you don’t fucking push yourself, then what the hell are you doing?” She declares. ‘I’m Not Your Man’, her daringly titled and immeasurably bright second album could be just that push. Beaming with a newfound, and headstrong confidence, It’s a release that finds the twenty-five year old hitting her stride like never before. Swaggering, stomping, and simply bedazzling, ‘I’m Not Your Man’ is the one you never saw coming, already a contender of for Album of the Year, its inexhaustible individuality and gleeful pop-rock energy see’s Marika Hackman batting for the Big League.
But how can one album come to sound so astoundingly different, yet undeniably intimate, natural almost!? It’s a transformation that Hackman has pulled off coolly. Debut LP, ‘We Slept At Last’ came disguised beneath an elaborate, shroud of fleeting metaphors; dark, primal, and haunting, it’s a release that should’ve (and almost would’ve!) set the songwriter on a predictably, placed path…almost. ‘I’m Not Your Man’ is a different beast entirely, revealing a sexy, street-smart attitude toward modern relationships and life as a twenty-something under the social media bubble, and bearing tongue-in-cheek humour by the bucketload, it’s unfamiliar bedroom honesty, and biting lyrical sass will surely rattle even the staunchest folk fogeys.
Drafting in buzzy London four-piece, and longstanding pals The Big Moon to serve as her backing band throughout the recording process, it’s no surprise who’s responsible for the album’s whirlwind urgency. Deliberately littered with studio cock-ups, mistakes and other comic details, it’s these split second instants that add a wondrous fourth-dimension to ‘I’m Not Your Man’. Sharp, audacious and totally brilliant, lead single and opening track ‘Boyfriend’ already stands as one of this year’s greatest musical moments. “I’ve got your boyfriend on my mind/
I think he knows you stayed with me last night” she sighs, wrestling female objectification and sexual identity with killer chops and deadpan delivery: “It’s fine ’cause I am just a girl
/It doesn’t count/ He knows a woman needs a man to make her shout”. Each sarcastic jab, draws the track further into absurdity, complete with smatters of laughter, and, well, the odd dolphin squeal, courtesy of The Big Moon’s Jules Jackson, no less.
‘Good Intentions’ does it’s best to blow out the last of the spring cobwebs, quaking with grunge-like fervor, and quirky Britpop stylings not too dissimilar to The Big Moon themselves, whilst the addictive and acidic chimes of ‘My Lover Cindy’ serve to demonstrate Hackman’s razor-sharp attentiveness to songwriting. “I’m a lousy lover/even if I try” she confesses with the utmost innocence, before twisting the knife just minutes later. “Cause I’m a fucking pig/I’m gonna get my fill/I’m gonna keep my eyes on the prize/And I’ll suck you dry, I will” she adds sneeringly. Insatiable pop melodies are a must , scintillating riffs trail and dance like party poppers on New Years Eve.
For it’s scuzzy, amped-up crunch and utterly infectious chorus chant, ‘Time’s Been Reckless’ wouldn’t appear all that out of place on The Big Moon’s own debut, however their’s is a relationship that’s never unevenly placed. Sitting atop the band’s musical shoulders, it’s allowed Marika to find her own footing, grasping for those heights that she so sorely deserves.
Despite an urge to shake off any false labels or preconceptions, as a “songstress” (“It’s just bollocks”), and even as a singer-songwriter, Hackman still hasn’t forgotten her raw, folk-indebted roots. There’s a certain tenderness that imbues the delicately strung acoustics of ‘Cigarette’, or the “Spaghetti Western” clatter of ‘Apple Tree’, its icy wordplay, and bare-bones assembly a recollection of days past, ‘Gina’s World’ smoulders and curls beneath groaning guitars, possessing an alluring, yet frowning grandeur. On ‘Violet’, Hackman delivers her lines with sinister conviction: “I’d like to roll around your tongue/Caught like a bicycle spoke” she groans, almost provocatively. The rest? That’s maybe a tad rich for this review, i’ll let you make your own mind up about the song’s subject…
‘Blahblahblah’ and ‘I’d Rather Be With Them’, provide some sort of universal clarity amongst Marika’s own personal, and romantic strife. A topical reflection of the mind-numbing effects of technology and social media on our day to day lives, the former sits poised with unmistakable animosity, referring to us all as “Brain-dead”, “Plugged into a pocket”, as good as dead. Craving some sense of closure, ‘I’d Rather Be With Them’ looks on as ‘I’m Not Your Man’s relationship arc comes full circle. It’s scathing, visceral even, finding Hackman poking amongst the bloodied tatters of her own relationship, now at a very different stance to where she had found herself before, and imaginably better for it?
‘I’m Not Your Man’ feels less of an album, and more of a fully-fledged story! There are heroes, villains, plot-twists and cliff-hangers, romance and danger in equal measure, it’s nail-biting stuff! Fraught with interminable energy, every track is a fiercely proposed statement; flirtatious, feisty, and fantastically fun, it’s abound with brazen indie hooks, and a sense of carefree confidence that only the best of albums possess. Marika Hackman now knows EXACTLY what she wants, lock up your girlfriend’s boys, there’s a new girl in town.
‘I’m Not Your Man’ track listing:
My Lover Cindy
Round We Go
Time’s Been Reckless
I’d Rather Be With Them
Words by Joe Bulger
Featured image courtesy DIY Magazine, artwork by Tristan Pigott