Big Sigh by Marika Hackman album review by Igor Bannikov for Northern Transmissions


Big Sigh

Marika Hackman

At the beginning of this decade, all of us definitely had a lot of reasons for sighing our “ohs” and “uhs”, so the author of the funniest line in indie music, “It’s all right/I’m jerking!”, is not an exception. Having gone through the toughest period in the lives of any modern musician (yeah, Pandemic, I mean you) and faced the dry-spell curse familiar to any singer/songwriter, in the end, Marika Hackman has significantly leveled up, as every RPG hero does after a big journey. So, let’s take a deep breath and look at her loot and artifacts, which she brought from her own Dark Zone.

By continuing this nerdy metaphor, we surely can say that for an indie artist at 31, Hackman saw things, as they say, because her background is very wide and rich: in her teenage years, she started a cover band, the Clementines, with her classmate and friend, supermodel Cara Delevingne; being a Burberry model, she had her debut music video produced by them; her first EP, That Iron Taste, was blessed by alt-J‘s producer Charlie Andrew, with whom she has since been working almost on every LP; to the beginning of her career, she had already been touring with Laura Marling; the Big Moon provided backing vocals on her second record, I’m Not Your Man; add here relationships with the Japanese House and Art School Girlfriend, and you can only exclaim something like “Wow,” quoting one of the best electronic albums of the last year. In other words, she knows things, and it’s obvious from her more self-confident and thus quiet sound on her fourth studio collection of original material.

Having become big friends with synthesizers on Any Human Friend, she made a significant accent on them with Andrew and also brought to perfection all her previous sonics. Reaching in 2019 the peak of poppy songs as possible for an indie musician (“The One,” “Blow,” “Hand Solo”), she took a little pit stop with the very quiet album aptly named Covers, and finally settled down after that somewhere in between Any Human Friend’s cracking hits, the melodically smart indie blockbuster I’m Not Your Man, and the unsettling ballads of We Slept at Last. “Big Sigh” with its almost “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”-ish guitar line, mixed with a deadly catchy hook, and “No Caffeine,” using “Wolf Like Me”-style ‘00s jittery riffing, are perfectly fit for her indie era. The album’s gem “Slime” from the get-go is her most swirled pop period worthy. Elsewhere, Hackman’s latest venture is mostly done in a melancholic and slow-burning way with a lot of handcrafted vignettes and significant riffs, like in the otherworldly “Vitamins,” the almost Erik Satie-ish “Blood,” or the instrumental “The Lonely House,” which remind us of her early works like the eerie “Undone, Undress.”

“This album took a long time to make,” Marika states, adding that “it was not easy” and admitting that Big Sigh was her “hardest record” to make, ever. Crawling through the Lockdown of 2020, she found herself under a “creative dry spell” and didn’t know if any linewould someday drip out from her pencil… or keyboard, whatever. However, some time later, after a curative course of work on Covers and its premiere in a forsaken London swimming pool, she found herself reassessing former years of her own life with the help of gorgeous instrumentation, razor-sharp choruses, and delicately penned, cutting lyrics, imbued with really cunning and fun verses. All in all, it’s safe to say that Big Sigh is a disarmingly thoughtful and nuanced summary of Marika’s entire 12-year-long artistic journey and maybe even life, a cutting line between her old experience and “next stage” of her life and music. “With this album, I got to a point where I realized I’d done the learning, I knew what to do,” she tells us.

Not bad for an attempt at overcoming writer’s block and traumas of the past, that deserves a very deep exhale. “Breathe in, breathe out. Big sigh,” as she puts it in the manner of Karate Kid.

Order Big Sigh by Marika Hackman HERE


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