Friday, January 19, 2024

"Tell me everything, but nothing more" - Marika Hackman unveils her beautifully transparent new album, ‘Big Sigh'.

We last heard from Marika Hackman in 2019 with her critically acclaimed alternative album ‘Any Human Friend’

The album produced evocative hits like ‘The One’ and ‘Send My Love’, and successfully stirred wonderful praise for its often bleak but incredibly consuming songwriting examples. What Marika Hackman manages to do so well is curate a necessary and honest picture of how it feels to love, often pointing the songbook at the unfailing desire we all share to want something more, something perfect. 

Where 2019's ‘Any Human Friend’ seemed to leave us with a youthful cry of these often-overwhelming feelings, the 2024 album ‘Big Sigh’ is a slower-burning, more introspective take on what it means to be barely getting by. 

Wrestling with thoughts of vulnerability and self-loathing, the album becomes unflinching in its portrayal of loneliness and heartbreak; gone is the flailing indie-optimism that often charges Hackman’s dynamic songwriting, and what remains is a decorative and intimate portrait that  hangs on to a certain sort of emotional enthusiasm. It is clear that beneath this album there remains the bones of Marika Hackman's deeply personal lyricism, but in many ways, I can’t help but envision that the incredibly accessible, almost simplistic tracks, portray a world that’s increasingly reclusive.

Employing the use of piano and string accompaniment across the space  of its 10 songs, the album is typically slow-moving, each phrase noticeably fueled by emotional intent and never rushing to finish. Even the more rhythmically charged track ‘No Caffeine’ remains graceful in its intent, as its typically indie liveliness is paired with beautifully placed string accompaniment to create one of the more approachable tracks of the album. While tracks like ‘Blood’ and ‘Please Don’t Be So Kind' find an incredibly comfortable home in the gentle corners of the album, it is the track ‘The Yellow Mile’ that impresses most in its folk-like sound. The playful acoustic guitar accompaniment allows us to be transfixed by Hackman's ever-personal storytelling, and the isolated vocals only allow us to absorb the brilliant melodies that persist throughout this song and the rest of the  album. 

The magnificent production choices we observe throughout this album are evident from the get-go, as Marika Hackman's collaboration with Sam Petts Davies (The Smile, Puma Blue) and Charlie Andrews (Alt J, Wolf Alice) is incredibly well received in the engaging opener ‘The Ground’. Once again in the track 'vitamins', the electronic shift and inventive production choices create a landscape for Hackman's thoughts to unravel even deeper. Unlike the charismatic musings of her previous records, ‘Big Sigh’ projects a character that is closer to the one we see in Hackman herself, from its well-placed  instrumentation to its relaxed and effortless vocal content, the tracks are unveiled with a confidence only found in unburdened truth.

Overall, this album provides an incredibly inviting and, at points, irresistible example of Marika Hackman's deeply emotive musical story telling. The pleasing collection of tracks never lack emotional intent and are at points unravelling much like the moments of a meaningful conversation. 

See the songs so brilliantly transferred to a live setting throughout her U.K. tour dates at the beginning of March, and I am confident you are bound to be impressed.

Ewan Bourne


Image: ‘Big Sigh’ Official Album Cover

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