When you’re telling a good story, honesty isn’t the most essential trait. True stories can be fun, sure, but no one cares about the fish you caught in 1973, Brian. It wasn’t even that big. Despite this, it’s breathtaking honesty and introspective intelligence that sets Marika Hackman’s Any Human Friend apart from any album I’ve heard this year.
Just look at the album cover — Marika herself, standing in a pair of y-fronts, wearing too-big thermal socks, holding a pig. Hackman hides nothing, besides maybe the identity of the pig.
By tearing away the facade, Marika lets herself breathe. She’s talking sex, sexuality, self-reflection, and feminism — all presented with the pretty red ribbon of witty lyricism, sharp melodies and perfectly produced canvases of sound. The skill of Marika as a producer, joined by David Wrench (who produced major ambient names like Frank Ocean, The xx and Let’s Eat Grandma) is something a production geek like me can’t get enough of — even if it makes me poor craic at parties.
I had a fairly skewed idea of what Marika was all about going into this album. My experience of her work comes from her guest vocals on Alt-J’s ‘Warm Foothills’ and ‘Last Year’ — two artsy, curious indie folk tracks. I expected a little more of that. Maybe that’s why I got such a shock when ‘The One’ pounded from my speakers. This is super-fun, guitar-led pop, a la Bombay Bicycle Club or The 1975, with all the trimmings of perfectly fun pop — punchy beats, guitar riffs that make their home in your brain but never leave, and melt-your-face-off, New Order synth that’s never going to apologise for anything.
However, it’s the lyricism here that makes this tune special. Right away, there are vocals screaming “attention whore” or how everybody “wants my dick”. Like Marika Hackman herself says:
“It’s blunt, but not offensive. It’s mischievous”
‘All Night’ carries on in this vein. It’s a raucous pop battering — fun but sexy, sapphic but not fetishised, laced with the wit and brazen confidence that comes from surely, surely knowing you are the bomb. ‘Hand Solo’ shrugs it’s shoulders and sings the praises of masturbation. ‘Conventional Ride’ discusses sexuality in the most frank and honest way.
In that way, every song feels like you’re getting to know the songwriter. It’s as if she’s given you permission to sift through her head. To see all of her thoughts laid out on the autopsy table.
There are shifts in tone that stop the record falling stagnant, like any great album. ‘Hold On’ is much more delicate than the tracks preceding it, giving Hackman a chance to flex her dreamlike vocal tones, dragging all the softness from your soul, kicking and screaming. ‘Any Human Friend’ is a layered masterpiece reminiscent of Lucy Rose’s first album. The title track bookends the album with vulnerability, stripped of the boldness we’ve seen throughout.
This album is shooting straight to my favourites. Any Human Friend is so bold, fun, witty and charismatic. Hackman’s soft, perfect delivery on top of bouncy indie pop is the best combo since bread and butter. Her brazen attitude is so powerful, so naturally demanding of respect that I’d be fooling no one if I didn’t give this album full marks.
If you want to pick up Any Human Friend, the album drops on August 9.