Marika Hackman first burst on to the scene back in early 2012 with her sweet song ‘Here I Lie’, recorded for a Burberry campaign. The comparisons to Laura Marling, Joanna Newsom and Nico quickly rolled in, and it was clear that Hackman was going to have to do something special to prove herself as a unique artist. She more than achieved that with That Iron Taste, a mini-album released in February of this year. Sugar Blind is her second release, a four-track EP, produced once again by Charlie Andrew (Alt-J). It shows even more development in Hackman both as a singer, a songwriter and a folk innovator.
The record introduces a darker and more psychedelic side to her music than ever before. Opening track ‘Cinnamon’ is weird and mystical, and hears Hackman swoon lyrics like ‘Lay me down I’m cinnamon, powder on the brain, rubber coated brains and I’m on my way’. It’s her lyrical talent which compels most, particularly on this song. It’s not the usual love and heartbreak, but most of her work is seemingly inspired by the body and the natural world around her. It’s an unusual place to take inspiration, but teamed with Andrew’s production, it creates a sound which portrays the secrets of the English wilderness, and the same intriguing, organic quality of Ryan McGinley’s photography.
Second track ‘Itchy Teeth’ is a far softer attempt, and the acoustic version of the track is particularly heart-melting. Here, Hackman adds some romantic elements, ‘Hold me for an hour’ she sings, yet it’s so effortlessly gorgeous that we’ll let her off. ‘Wolf’ returns back to the swirling sounds we heard on ‘Cinnamon’, and the vocal harmonies on this track continue to circle the mind long after the track ends. The final track, ’81’, is a Joanna Newsom cover, an artist to whom Hackman has been compared countless times. Artists covering their idols is often risky, yet in this case it completely pays off. If you didn’t know the Newsom track, you would almost think that this was an original song. Newsom and Hackman share a lyrical talent to transport you to another world, yet their voices couldn’t be more contrasting, and Marika’s soft, subtle tones really shine on this cover.
Sugar Blind is one of those records you will feel compelled to play endlessly this winter, and it certainly sets Hackman up as one to watch in the next 12 months.
Words by Anna Mellor