9 April 2015
Marika Hackman arrives at Thekla with critical acclaim fluttering in her ears. Her debut album, We Slept At Last, has gone a long way towards overtaking her Burberry modelling past and friendships with the likes of Cara Delevingne and Laura Marling. Her brand of folky pop, spiced up with delicate elements of electronica and grotesque imagery, is by far the most interesting thing about her. For tonight’s gig, Hackman appears without a backing band, and it’s a gutsy move for an up-and-coming musician, a move which speaks volumes about her determination to go her own way and do her own thing. Noting the wind machine above her, she notes that “with my white t-shirt it’s quite Backstreet Boys”, a remark which belies her comfort onstage.
In many ways, female singer-songwriters live or die on the quality of their voice, and so it is fortunate that Hackman’s is so sweet. It makes the gothic lyricism of tracks like ‘Bath is Black’ twice as powerful as they might otherwise be. Tonight it’s amplified by a slight echo in playback, which makes tracks like ‘Drown’ and ‘Cannibal’, with it’s wicked guitar lick, even more gorgeous than normal. The other quality that Hackman has in abundance is a a delightful self-effacing humour. “I’ve played Thekla before”, she tells us, “I sold about five tickets”.
She is knowingly stationary on stage, and riffs on the stickiness on the floor – “if I become extra still, it’s because I’m glued to the spot” before playing a similarly still and tranquil version of ‘Deep Green’ from the EP Deaf Heat. Tranquil, that is, until she almost spits out the line “fucking with my goddamn brain”. It is just one example of the dark lyricism which has given Hackman such a lift, a lyricism which suggests that as a youngster she was never happier than when burrowing into her own imagination.
“I hope you’ve all got your party hats on for another clap-along classic” is her introduction for ‘Here I Lie’, the tale of the “rotting skin” of tragic lovers. While her music isn’t exactly pumping, it is beautiful in it’s summery melody and brooding lyricism, as perfectly encapsulated by highlight of the night ‘Animal Fear’. A cover of ’81’ by Joanna Newsom comes across well, and by this point it is clear that while Hackman specialises in modesty, her talent far outstrips any necessity for this.