On Marika Hackman’s new album she reveals herself and her troubled relationship so vividly it’s almost uncomfortable at times. Much has been said of her new ‘musical direction’ but in reality ‘I’m Not Your Man‘ is just the sound of an artist finding new strength and confidence to keep walking her own path.
On her previous work you could hear an echo of darkness but you felt like she was always holding something back or forcing herself to fit into an expected style. Hackman never had the ear for folk melodies or the vocal skills of Laura Marling who she was often compared to and nor did the prevailing trend of computerised electronica seem to suit her either. So for this new album she has brought in indie rockers The Big Moon to beef things up and it feels like a natural evolution to have a more organic live sound. Hackman also develops her previous skills of restraint to create some dramatic moments on the quieter songs too.
The opener Boyfriend skewers conceived notions of gender roles and male ideas of female sexuality in a sharply knowing way. Her straight-talking (excuse the irony) makes the complexities of this lesbian relationship clear. I hope your boyfriend doesn’t mind…it’s fine cause I’m a girl, it doesn’t count. It’s pretty funny, in a brutal sort of way. Good Intentions also has this laid-back sardonic singing style, which The Big Moon themselves have perfected.
The best song here is My Lover Cindy, a britjanglegaragepop classic in the making. Hackman sounds deliciously lovely even when she sings I’m a greedy pig, I’ll suck you dry I will. I love the way the music cuts out and the voice alone tells us her truths, her flaws. Even when she swears she’s almost apologetic. She didn’t mean to end up like this but that’s just the reality.
Violet starts quietly but builds into a startling sense of menace. This is not a relationship which anyone is going to get out of unscathed. Time’s Been Reckless is so great, with the chanting of ‘I’m so tactless‘ adding to layers of confession. When she sings ‘I feel so damn old‘ on Apple Tree you believe her. She’s been through it.
On So Long she’s ‘so damn cold‘ and this icy frostiness is clear in the singing too. I’ll keep you in my bed tonight is the repeated refrain, which suggests she’s a glutton for punishment. There’s a real claustrophobic feeling towards the end of the album – she wants to find a way out of this relationship, it’s done, it’s finished but it’s not that easy to just quit. On I’d Rather be With Them she’s damaged now, dead almost. I’m so fucking heartless, I can’t even cry, I’ve opened my body, it’s hollow inside. It’s hard not to hate the person who destroyed you even if you knew it would end up like this from the start.
As you listen to ‘I’m Not Your Man‘ you feel like Marika Hackman intended to be as honest and true as she could both musically and lyrically. The result is an album with a real blistering bite.