Review Summary: A resplendent piece of pop/rock/folk that is as beguiling musically as it is lyrically blunt.
In the last several days, I’ve gotten to know Marika Hackman’s music very well. I poured over her first two releases – We Slept At Last
and I’m Not Your Man
– and found myself blown away by how each record succeeds so differently. The tender, moonlit folk of the former was outshone by the band-backed I’m Not Your Man
, a swaggering exercise in alt-rock that saw her come out of her shell both musically and sexually (the timid strides of her debut notwithstanding, ‘Boyfriend’ was the first song where she sang confidently about being gay). All of this had me primed for the release of Any Human Friend
, and I have to say, she does not disappoint. Hackman’s third full-length feels like a fusion of these experiences, bending the squealing electric guitars of I’m Not Your Man
around the folk-pop hooks of We Slept At Last
, all while further emboldening her confidence – or as she sings two tracks in – I'm a god sent gift, and all you fuckers want my dick
. Thus, Any Human Friend
feels like Hackman’s most representative work to date.
It’s Marika’s forthright lyrics and unconventional humor that keeps listeners captivated. Much of the record revolves around sex, a theme that could have been predicted based upon the bare cover art. ‘all night’ is an ode to oral sex (kissing and fucking / eating, moaning
) disguised as a starlit indie ballad, with a soaring chorus stretched across panoramic guitars and shimmering synths. ‘hand solo’ is midtempo rocker that is, predictably, all about masturbation: It's alright, I'm jerking
. This isn’t news on the heels of her preceding album, which saw Marika learn not to mince words as she really grew into her own skin. What’s great about Any Human Friend
is that it’s not just some sleazy horn-fest; Hackman uses sex as a prop for more important topics – like shattering stereotypes about homosexual women. Even the title was lifted from a documentary about four year olds interacting with dementia patients, in which one of them explains “it’s great to make any human friend, whether old or young.” One can’t help but notice that this theme (of a child-like innocence and acceptance of all types of people) has been extrapolated and applied to Any Human Friend
. Here, Hackman battles common misconceptions about being a gay woman, particularly fetishization by the straight community – a pet peeve of hers that dates back to a 2017 interview in which she stated, “Women’s desire for each other is still a fetish for men. I have always worked with lovely men who have never tried to mansplain stuff to me, but that hasn’t been the case for all the women musicians I know.”
Strictly from a musical standpoint, Any Human Friend
is probably her most palatable offering. It settles into a sweet spot between folk and rock, creating the perfect gateway for newcomers while also appeasing fans of either of her first two records. It’s less a back-and-forth dart between genres as it is a cohesive homogenization; Hackman deftly intertwines upbeat drumming and melodic electric chords with atmospheric indie-pop. It’s not an easy line to toe, but she pulls it off with remarkable consistency and, for the most part, sans any pitfalls. Highlights include the ramped up synth-rocker ‘the one’, the impossibly catchy ‘I’m not where you are’, the west coast dream-pop vibes of ‘conventional ride’, and the effervescent, bouncy melodies of ‘come undone.’ She’s done better slow, soul-baring ballads before than ‘hold on’, the ambient penultimate track that primarily serves as a reminder that Any Human Friend
’s greatest asset is its quirky, unpredictable energy. Still, even in the record’s least gripping junctures, it’s never far from a new wrinkle to recapture listeners’ focus. Hackman may not have another ‘Boyfriend’ here, but it’s also her smoothest front-to-end listen.
Any Human Friend
cements Hackman as one of the most intriguing figures in indie-pop/rock, if not for her lyrical antics then for her ability to constantly reinvent her music. As Marika continues to feel more self-assured with her own personality and sexuality, her music grows with her, sounding more poised and full-bodied with each release. Her third record is a continuation of that organic growth, a resplendent piece of pop/rock/folk that is as beguiling musically as it is lyrically blunt. It’s refreshing that we still have artists like Hackman who are unafraid to speak their minds, while creating excellent music to drive it all home.