British singer-songwriter Marika Hackman delivers her most sexually charged and immediate songs to date in ‘Any Human Friend’, broadening her musical reach with a synth-rock swagger.
The twenty-seven-year-old, London-based singer-songwriter Marika Hackman first came to prominence with her 2015 debut, We Slept At Last, a delicate and elliptical record that drew on the folk tradition, and followed it in 2017 with the more abrasive, strident and lyrically candid ‘’m Not Your Man. Now a new long-player, Any Human Friend, continues her burgeoning development as both a consummate exponent of effervescent pop hooks and an increasingly assured analyst of social norms, particularly with regards queerness and sex.
Conceived in response to the demise of her four-year relationship with fellow musician Amber Bain (aka The Japanese House), Any Human Friend takes its title from a phrase used by a four-year-old in a Channel Four television documentary about children interacting with dementia sufferers. It’s a blunt, scratchy and lust-filled record which makes her debut sound polite and coy in comparison, a direct and daring opus whose primary concerns include the physical body, obsession, desire and raw, unfiltered expression.
Working in tandem with co-producer David Wrench, Hackman has beefed up her sonic arsenal and constructed a series of unfussy, slinky and soaring pop-rock missives which illuminate unsavoury truths about relationships and tackle misconceptions about female homosexuality from a non-hetero, queer gaze. She darts between dream-pop on Conventional Ride, gauzy, close-mic folkie vibes on the pristine opener, Wanderlust, glimmering synth-rock on The One and introspective ballad on Hold On.
Whilst delivering withering assessments on her jet-propelled hymn to oral sex, Hand Solo – “I gave it all, but under patriarchal law, I’m gonna die a virgin” – , Hackman lays bare her own emotional shortcomings on I’m Not Where You Are and The One. The languid synths of the lovelorn Send My Love are cut from the same cloth as We Slept At Last but the lyrical anomie cuts deep with its eerie depiction of betrayal and vexation: “Did you love me tonight/Or any night of our lives?”
Any Human Friend represents the vacillations of a rapidly maturing artist growing into her skin and questioning society’s values and expectations; there’s a palpable ache and torment at the heart of all these songs which speaks of the paradox of someone simultaneously craving attention whilst wriggling and writhing away from human connection.
By Michael Sumsion