Marika Hackman: Covers (Sub Pop) - review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, November 23rd, 2020  

Marika Hackman

Covers

Sub Pop

Nov 20, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


It’s a tale as old as (current) time: a quarantine induced fervor that spawns an incessant need to create. But with seemingly endless time comes a burden of sorts. If you give a girl a keyboard, she’s going to be met with an interminable amount of possibilities. I would wager this is not an unfamiliar feeling, even to those who don’t possess the creative forte that singer/songwriter Marika Hackman does. Sometimes, you have so much to say that the idea of attempting to articulate any of it becomes virtually impossible. 

So like most artists, Hackman replayed her comfort tracks; a little Radiohead, some Elliott Smith, in an effort to forge some greater sense of inspiration. It was then Hackman had the epiphany: why not just make a covers album?

So what exactly do Grimes, Beyoncé, and The Shins (oh my!) all have in common? Generally, not much. But with Covers, Hackman disassembles a variety of unique tracks to rebuild an album sewn together so tightly, it’s almost impossible to find the original stitching. Let’s call it giving it the ol’ Hackman flair.  

And the ol’ Hackman flair is reintroduced by co-producer David Wrench (Frank Ocean, The xx, Let’s Eat Grandma), the mind behind her 2019 record, Any Human Friend. On Covers Hackman digs up her debut We Slept At Last roots. Like her first album, Covers flows with smooth electro-folk. But on occasion, we hear some sprouts of baroque strings and meditative guitar.

Firing off with Radiohead deep-cut, “You Never Wash Up After Yourself,” the penultimate track from the band’s 1994 EP, My Iron Lung, Hackman trades in Thom Yorke’s whines and Jonny Greenwood’s lullaby fingerpicking for an almost acapella melody. Reverb harmonies crawl across gentle keys and ghostly synth, while a slight buzzing of a fly meanders throughout the track, perhaps a nod at the decomposing themes (“Everything is starting to die/The dust settles, the worms dig”) of the OG song.

An apprehensive snare and a few hi-hat hits then signal the next record: “Phantom Limb,” by The Shins. Again, Hackman washes her hands of the original tempo and performs a sparse—but not without some synths and The Shins’ original guitar riff—arrangement that sounds as if it could be off Daughter’s 2013 album, If You Leave. Much like the first two tracks, many of the songs on Covers remove a handful of bells and whistles from the original recording. Take Grimes’ “Realiti” for example. Originally donned as a cyborgian dance-beat, Hackman instead chugs along with her voice acting as the main attraction, stating, “welcome to reality.” Sombering, eh? 

There are a few exceptions to Hackman’s reimagining. Elliott Smith’s “Between the Bars” follows the same guitar melody, but adds just a dash of tremolo, wavering Hackman’s vocals alongside a faint snare hit. The final track “All Night,” comes from Beyoncé’s critically acclaimed album Lemonade. At a slower pace, but on par in terms of swagger, Hackman implements stacked vocals throughout, giving the song a more emotive, crushing melody. Out-performing Beyonce? I’d call that a feat.

All from the comfort of her parents’ bedroom, Hackman gives us a glimpse into her quarantine playlist. And even more impressive, she tangibly shows us why these songs are so special, breaking them down to their core, and letting them speak for themselves. (www.marikahackman.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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