In an effort to avoid the creative drought that accompanied lockdown, folk-rock artisan Marika Hackman found herself turning to the comfort of old favourites, resulting in a dark and curious collection of covers, called, well, Covers. With a limited range of instruments at her disposal – vocals, guitars and synths primarily – and the inclusion of chair creaks and buzzing flies, each track is carefully and sensitively crafted but still keeps hints of the album’s DIY nature, single-handedly created by Hackman in her parents’ home in Devon.
Covers has noticeable echoes of Hackman’s earlier work and first record We Slept At Last, also recorded in Devon, eschewing the outspoken and feisty energy of her more recent music in favour of an intimate, stripped back sound. Perfectly summing up the feeling of many of us in the depths of a seemingly unsurmountable global crisis, a vein of melancholy and emptiness runs throughout the album. Opening track ‘You Never Wash Up After Yourself’, a gentle reworking of Radiohead, sets the tone for the album, placing Hackman’s silken but subdued vocals centre stage and cushioned by an ethereal choral backing.
The simplicity of the album celebrates the raw beauty of Hackman’s vocals, while her song selection certainly playing to her strengths. Tracks like Air’s ‘Playground Love’ and Elliott Smith’s ‘Between the Bars’, already similar in style to Hackman, play into her propensity for the minor key, while slow and sultry ‘Pink Light’ features a chorus that breaks like a sunrise in your ears. ‘Temporary Loan’, a beautiful lovesong, is almost identical to the original apart from the reversal of the pronouns, an obvious and unquestionable alteration by Hackman as queer woman, determined to stay accurate to herself first and foremost.
In contrast to previous releases, Covers has beats. ‘Realiti’ is without doubt one of the standout tracks from the album, and you could be forgiven for thinking it was an original, written by and for Hackman alone. A dark reimagining of Grimes, who is known for her extra-terrestrial sci-fi pop, Hackman still keeps an essence of the electronic original to create a pulsing, brooding track that builds in energy yet simultaneously manages to remain serene. Whilst Beyoncé and alternative folk may be an unlikely pairing, Hackman’s discordant and pulsating cover of ‘All Night’, taken from the iconic Lemonade, works brilliantly.
These unexpected and soothing reimaginings truly shine a light on Hackman’s talent as a vocalist and a musician, while realising the moods of so many of us throughout the pandemic. Covers is an album that grows on you, sometimes subdued and sometimes rhythmic, a perfect embodiment of finding inspiration in the gloomy depths of a seemingly hopeless time.
Header image: Marika Hackman. Credit: Joost Vandebrug.